Ukrainian media reports, quoting the source in the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ministry of Defense that France has begun delivering weapons and military equipment to Armenia, a country which recently became infamously aligned with Iran and Russia in the global arena.
According to the source, the first batch of the 50 French armored personnel carriers is set to arrive in the near future. For Kyiv, whose secret services have been monitoring the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia closely for quite some time, this raises a few alarms. Yet Kyiv is not the only party potentially threatened by the consequences of this French foreign policy. It is well documented that Armenia, Iran and Russia are all tied closely in military cooperation, which would make French deliveries to Armenia susceptible to falling into the hands of both Kyiv’s and Jerusalem’s largest enemies.
Russia’s presence in the Caucasus greatly increased post-2020, following the 2nd Karabakh war in which Azerbaijan retook many territories in the Karabakh region from Armenian control with the help of Israel and Turkey. Russia mediated peace between the sides and deployed a large military contingent as “peacekeepers”, while maintaining military bases in Armenia – its CSTO partner. Iran, on the other hand, has maintained a large military presence in the region for a long time, considering it is bordering both Israeli-aligned Azerbaijan and its own ally, Armenia.
The French top brass made the decision to begin military cooperation with Armenia during Armenian Defense Minister Papikyan’s visit to Paris in September 2022. It was a gesture of support, after which the French Senate voted on November 15th to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan and enact an embargo on Azerbaijani energy exports to the EU. Israeli Ministers, Members of Knesset and leaders of Jewish communities abroad called this an «unpleasant surprise», as Azerbaijan, being Israel’s strategic partner against Iran, supplies close to 50% of Israel’s energy needs.
According to various sources, such as the US-based international security analysis outlet, Global Security Review, France is seriously considering delivering Mistral anti-air missile systems to Armenia, to contend with Israeli and Turkish drones in use by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
The problem emerges when considering the close ties between Yerevan, Moscow and Tehran. Those same Mistral missiles, APCs and other military equipment if they are incorporated into Armenian service, would likely end up in Iranian or Russian hands. Even if not in large numbers, one system may be enough for the Iranians to reverse engineer and create a functional copy of the system, using French technology against Israeli and Ukrainian targets through Iranian allies and proxies.
Last year Israeli analytical expert Ron Ben Ishay already noted the skill of the Iranian defense industry regarding reverse engineering. There are plenty of examples where Iran has acquired Western military equipment and made it its own through the process of dissecting and remaking copies using the knowledge from having the original in their hands. Such examples are prevalent within the Iranian drone industry and different missile programs such as the Toophan anti-tank guided missile being a reverse engineered American TOW missile.
In the last 2 border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, Armenians have used Iranian drones, the very same ones used by Putin’s soldiers in Ukraine. If Tehran is already supplying both with its own weaponry, the leap to using reverse engineered French weaponry is not as outlandish as may seem at first. Iranian military industry R&D is already actively utilizing feedback from Russian operators of Iranian equipment in Ukraine to better their products, so it is safe to assume that French technology used by Armenians will be thoroughly researched in Iran and then distributed to other arenas, as if merging 3 different wars together.
Taking into account that Iran arms and trains several Palestinian terrorist organizations (like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that recently fired hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities) and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the threat of improved Iranian weaponry, based on French technologies is very real.