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The long-term goal of drones

2024-01-17 14:38

Issam Khoury

#IranDrones , #Shahed, #MiddleEastSecurity , #DroneProliferation , #RegionalInstability , #USForeignPolicy , #IranRussiaAlliance , #AsymmetricWarfare , #MilitaryTechnology , #GeopoliticalTensions , #EUDefenseStrategy,

The long-term goal of drones

"Iran's advanced drone program, possibly aided by Russia, poses rising threats to regional stability and EU interests, elevating security concerns."

The Iranian political strategy has been characterized by calmness and gradual expansion of its regional influence. Instead of using its media to showcase its technological and military superiority over Arab governments, Iranian media focused on issues that appeal to the average Muslim audience, with the Palestinian issue at the forefront. In fact, Iranian-funded media has become more supportive of the Palestinian cause than most Arab and even Palestinian media outlets.


Furthermore, the Iranian military system has been marked by secrecy and humility. While the international community was preoccupied with Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missile capabilities, Tehran was diligently working on developing its drone program. It was only after testing them in the Syrian civil war that Iran began offering its drones for sale in the arms market. This was highlighted in the documentary film "Flagbearer Document [1]", which traces the development of Iran's drone program from the Iran-Iraq war to its use in Syria, and later showcases the Shahed 136 drone in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.


The release of this film before the Gaza war and the disclosure of previously classified information indicate that the drone program has reached a higher stage. Tehran is now prepared to intensify its production of drones and use them to protect its national security interests.


Hezbollah's battles in Syria have demonstrated the group's acquisition of these drones. The recent Gaza war also revealed Hamas' possession of these unmanned aircraft. It is worth noting that the US Navy shot down three drones launched by the Houthi group on November 23, 2023 [2]. This indicates that the technology for manufacturing drones is now available to various armed groups supported by Tehran, including smaller ones such as the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. These groups have targeted several US bases in Syria with drones, with the most recent incident occurring on November 23, 2023 [3], in the Al-Umar oil field.


The Washington Post published on November 19, 2023, about the almost daily attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria, involving missile launches and unmanned aircraft. These attacks have amounted to more than 61 incidents [4] as of the article's publication date.


Realistically, groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels have hierarchical leadership structures and are either besieged or semi-besieged. This necessitates Iran's training of loyal engineers for these groups to manufacture and enhance drones. Transporting drones by sea or land is difficult for them. On the other hand, the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have declared themselves responsible for targeting American bases in Syria and Iraq under the name "Islamic Resistance in Iraq," can easily acquire manufactured drones from Iran and use them against American bases. They are not obliged to train Iraqi engineers for military production.


Iran may not be inclined to train Iraqi engineers for several reasons, including:


  • The absence of centralized leadership for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is evident.
  • There is clear competition among the PMF militias to gain loyalty from Tehran. Therefore, Tehran does not want one Iraqi militia to be stronger than the others, so as not to lose the loyalty of the weaker militias.
  • The geographical proximity to Tehran.
  • The presence of clear American influence in Iraq and the possibility of recruiting Washington's agents within those militias.



From these points, it can be inferred that the drones used in the Iraqi militias' attacks against American bases are manufactured in Iran. The careful use of these drones by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard indicates that they are developing them based on American countermeasures. Thus, these operations serve as an Iranian test balloon against the Americans, and Iran may benefit from its results in the Ukrainian-Russian war. Today, Russia is the largest buyer of Iranian drones and is a strategic ally of Tehran. Russia may be a secret partner in Iran's development of its drone project, especially considering Russia's history of clandestine cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran, as evident in the Iranian nuclear file.


Therefore, Americans in Syria and Iraq should not exclude Russian involvement in targeting the Iraqi PMF militias against American bases. Despite Russia's commitment to ensuring the security of the Syrian-Israeli front, several Shia organizations have violated this agreement. Several rockets have been launched from Syrian territory, claiming to be from Palestinian popular resistance. This indicates that the Russians are colluding with the Iranians in carrying out disruptive projects against the American presence in Syria, with the aim of relocating those bases from this region, as was the case in Afghanistan on August 30, 2021.


[1] مستند سینمایی پرچمدار


[2] Navy ship in Red Sea shoots down more attack drones from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen: CENTCOM, Nov 23, 2023, ABC news, By Matt Seyler


[3] "المقاومة الإسلامية في العراق" تعلن استهداف قاعدة أمريكية في حقل العمر النفطي بسوريا/ روسيا اليوم  Nov 23, 2023


[4] Navy ship in Red Sea shoots down more attack drones from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen: CENTCOM, Nov 19, 2023, By Alex Horton, Dan Lamothe and Abigail Hauslohner


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