A little over a month ago, I encountered an article in Foreign Policy titled ‘All It Takes is One’: Iran Gives Russia Help From the Air, discussing Russia’s use of Iranian drones in its war against Ukraine.
It seems these drones have been effective, though primarily in damaging infrastructure and less so explicitly military targets. Nevertheless, at only $20,000 each, these unmanned aerial vehicles are a bargain, it seems to me. Their engines are described as being akin to that of a lawnmower. They make a buzzing noise that “announces” their arrival. They are not very high-tech, but they are effective.
Of course, my first thought was “great, Armenia should get some of these drones.” But then the cold shower of the current blundering, bumbling, bungling regime hit me.
I was pleased to be wrong about this when some days later, I encountered another news item which listed about half a dozen countries seeking to purchase these drones, among them, Armenia! I haven’t been able to find this item again, but another one reports that Iran has stated 22 countries are interested in purchasing these drones.
The geopolitics and economics of why Iran would want to sell drones, who would want to buy them, why Russia is using them, what additional sanctions might be imposed on Iran and Russia (and others?) for the sale/purchase/use of these drones, what the ramifications of faulty or ineffective equipment could be, and what responses from other regional powers might be elicited gets messy. But, since nothing speaks like success, if these machines are effective, they’ll sell.
So, if the Republic of Armenia buys a few hundred of the drones, what happens? Having a tool is no guarantee of success. Knowing how to use it is critical. Even more important is having a broader strategy as part of which the tool in question can be used effectively.
Since the Azeris (of course with outside help, primarily Turkey’s) outsmarted us in 2020 in part by using drone warfare in a way that was a first in world history, they clearly have developed sophistication on the drone use front. So it is incumbent on our side to go one step further and outsmart them as we did three decades ago. It will probably take something of a revolution in the thinking of our side’s (both republics’) military leadership which is likely, unavoidably, steeped in now-dated Soviet strategy. I suspect the same situation in Russia is contributing to its setbacks in Ukraine.
Ultimately, even if we do all of the above – build or buy the right, modern, relevant equipment; modernize strategy; outsmart the Turks – there has to be the political will to use this all to strike back at our mortal enemy of the moment, the Turks to our east. Here is where I suspect we fail. The current regime clearly lacks this will. In 2020, they gave orders to retreat when our forces were winning on some fronts. They did not use the best military hardware in their hands (what was the point of having Iskander missiles, just to show off at military parades?).
So what must be done? The drones should very definitely be purchased by the RoA, perhaps even with assistance from or by the Diaspora (to provide deniability/political cover). But just as certainly, either the Pashinyan regime has to develop a backbone, or it has to exit the leadership stage. The voters must come to see the necessity of this course.