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Sounds Worse Than it Is': Iran Building Drones in Venezuela

"Cutting-edge symbol of that relationship."

The U.S. is keeping tabs on activity in Venezuela involving drone production by Iranian groups that have been affiliated with "illicit activities," according to U.S. News & World Reports.

Its DOTMIL blog states officials have said that drones will most likely be used for internal defense. Wired is quick to point out that the fact that the two countries are working together on drone production "sounds worse than it is." DOTMIL has more from U.S. Southern Command chief Gen. Douglas Fraser on the situation in the South American country with these extremist groups:

"I would put it in the Scan Eagle class of UAV," Fraser said. "It's not up into the Predator class."

The Southern Command chief was referring to two U.S.-made drone aircraft used by the American military. The Scan Eagle is about 10 feet long and is used for surveillance while the MQ-1B Predator drone can be armed with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles and is about 27 feet long.

Fraser said it's unclear what kinds of missions Venezuelan officials will send the Iranian drones.

His best guess? "I assume it's for internal defense."

(Related: Iran says it won't return captured U.S. spy drone, says will use it to simulate their own)

Wired states that while we can't know for sure that technology from the captured Predator aren't making it into the drones, it is unlikely. Wired believes that the biggest effect the drone building in Venezuela will have is to "sew panic in Congress and the blogosphere":

Teal Group analyst Phillip Finnegan says the drone deal "is one of these intangible signs of the relationship between Iran and Venezuela."

"If they can get a UAV that appears to be a cutting-edge symbol of that relationship," they can frame it as a loss for the United States, Finnegan says. "Although it's likely the end result might not be cutting-edge—generally Iran is not mentioned as being in the forefront of countries developing this capability."

Even still, DOTMIL reports that this action is evidence of the tightening relationship between the two countries. Last year, the Jerusalem Post reported that Iran was beginning to build missile launch pads in Venezuela.

One last thing…
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