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UK universities helped Iran develop military drone programme, report claims

June 11, 2023 at 9:32 am

Iranian drone [Wikipedia]

British universities have been accused of helping develop Iran’s drone programme in recent years despite London’s imposition of measures against Tehran’s drone industry, according to a report.

In a report by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, 11 universities across the United Kingdom have been involved in the development of Iran’s military technology for the purported use of the country’s ‘suicide drones’ and fighter aircraft, through studies of which some were funded by Tehran.

The studies cited in the report include one that was jointly produced by Imperial College researcher Ahmad Najjaran Kheirabadi and scientists from the Shahrood University of Technology and Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, both Iranian institutes. It was reportedly funded directly by Iran, and researched ways to upgrade lightweight drone engines for those like the Shahed 136 – currently used extensively by Russia.

Cranfield University also conducted a project with the Iranian University of Science and Technology back in 2021, looking specifically at the “military applications” of advanced systems known as “fuzzy controllers” in jet engines; enabling the engine to have “better manoeuvrability, which is an important aspect for military and unmanned aerial vehicles applications.”

READ: Russia has received hundreds of Iran drones to attack Ukraine – White House

The newspaper also cited over 200 papers that have been jointly written by Iran’s Shahid Beheshti University and British academics, including one that explored the development of electronic devices that use super-conductors and graphene, with potential use in next-generation wireless communications and security.

That particular paper had authors such as Samane Kalhor, currently a researcher at the University of Glasgow who had received her doctorate from Shahid Beheshti, as well as Majid Ghaantshoar, still based at the Iranian institution. It even included others from the University of Cambridge, implicating one of the most prestigious British and Western institutions’ involvement in the Iranian military programmes.

All of those research projects, studies, and papers were conducted despite the UK banning the export of technology to Iran which can be used for military purposes and applications. The report also comes amid recent and ongoing sanctions imposed on Iranian individuals and organisations supplying Russia with ‘kamikaze’ or suicide drones for use in its invasion of Ukraine.

Following the revelations, British MPs have called for an inquiry into how it was allowed for research that is potentially damaging to the UK and violation of sanctions to be carried out. Alicia Kearns, the chair of the UK’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, called for the investigation into “horrifying collaboration,” as well as shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who called it “deeply troubling.”

READ: US, Iranian officials hold indirect meetings in Oman