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The Iranian Drone Threat

The Israeli media claims that Israel bombed Iran’s fleet of drones, or unmanned airplanes, in a major air strike in Iran last month. The news was first reported three days ago by Al Mayadeen, a television station in Lebanon linked to Hezbollah.

Dailies in Israel, ranging from Haaretz to The Jerusalem Post, picked up the story. They reported that six Israeli drones, launched from Kurdistan in northern Iraq, struck an Iranian air base near Kermanshah in the western part of the country, destroying numerous drones on the ground.

The raid seemed reminiscent of Israel’s virtual destruction of Egypt’s air force during the first hours of the Six Day War.

So far, the foreign press has ignored the incident, which, if true, marked the first time the Israeli Air Force had conducted a raid inside Iran.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has long believed that Israel should strike Iran, the “head of the octopus,” rather than its assorted proxies throughout the Middle East.

Over the past decade or so, Israeli operatives in Iran have sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facilities, assassinated several of its top scientists, and hit Iranian ships bound for Syria, Iran’s chief Arab ally. But until now, Israeli aircraft have not struck Iran itself, Israel’s most deadly enemy aside from Hezbollah.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli government had no comment on the alleged strike, but government officials in Iran pointed a finger of blame at Israel, the Times of Israel said.

It is virtually impossible to confirm the veracity of Al Mayadeen’s story, which may be nothing but a figment of its fervid imagination, a ploy to tar Israel with the brushstroke of aggression.

Yet hours after Israel’s strike, Iran fired missiles at the U.S. consulate in Erbil in Iraq. According to Al Mayadeen, Israel launched the drone attack against Iran from the vicinity of the American consulate.

Iran appears to have retaliated. A cyberattack on March 14 disabled Israeli government websites for one hour. No one took credit for it, but the speculation in Israel was that Iran was behind it. In the last two years, Iranian hackers have repeatedly tried to disable Israeli websites.

What remains undeniably true is that Israel, a pioneer in drone warfare, regards Iran’s arsenal of drones as a major regional threat. Iran has not only fired drones at Israel, but supplied its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen with these deadly weapons.

Several days ago, the chief of staff of Israel’s armed forces, General Avi Kohavi, visited Bahrain, which normalized its relations with Israel a year-and-a-half ago under the Abraham  accords.

The Saudi Arabian Elaph news site reported that he and his hosts discussed the threat posed by Iranian drones, which are inexpensive to build, easy to operate, accurate, and difficult to detect because they can fly at low altitudes.

A month earlier, Israeli television said that Israel and its new Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, were developing defensive plans to counter Iranian drones.

Drones are a very effective weapon. They can be used for a variety of purposes, from attacking people and property to collecting intelligence and transporting arms and munitions.

In September 2019, a barrage of Iranian cruise missiles and drones struck a massive petroleum complex in Saudi Arabia, interrupting oil production for a few months. And in the last two years, Iranian drones, fired by Iran or one of its proxies, have slammed into Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria.

Since 2018, Iran has launched several drones at Israel.

In the winter of 2018, an Iranian Shahed-141 drone, fired from the T-4 airfield in Syria, was shot down by an Israeli helicopter over the Bet Shean Valley. It was reportedly carrying a load of explosives bound for a Palestinian terrorist group in the West Bank.

Last March, Israeli F-35 stealth jets shot down two Iranian Shahed-197 drones over undisclosed locations in Israel.

Two months later, as the Israeli army fought its fourth cross-border Gaza war, an Iranian Samad drone launched from Iraq was fired at Israel. It was downed and landed in a fish pond.

Last month, a Hezbollah drone supplied by Iran infiltrated Israeli air space. This was not an unusual event. Israel has shot down several Hezbollah drones in the last few years.

In the latest incident, Israeli radar tracked the flight of the drone and identified it. Israeli fighter planes and the Iron Dome anti-missile system, however, failed to intercept it, handing Hezbollah a huge psychological victory.

Responding to this embarrassing failure, several Israeli F-16 jets flew over Beirut, causing supersonic booms. Despite this show of force, Israel is well aware that Hezbollah has detected a weakness in its defences. This deficiency will have to be remedied very soon if Israel is to keep the drone threat at bay.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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