Iran’s Deceptive Show of Force Demonstrates Its Insecurity

June 16 2022

In recent years, writes Farzin Nadimi, “Tehran has been quick to show off the offensive and defensive capabilities of its drone fleet,” in the hope that doing so will effectively deter its enemies. Iran has indeed made significant advances: its drones have been widely used by its proxies in the region since at least 2004, posing a pervasive threat that is difficult to track. However, Nadimi argues, there is evidence that Iran has been exaggerating its capabilities, likely in an attempt to counter mounting evidence of the nation’s obvious weaknesses.

On May 29, Iranian state television aired a report about a new “top-secret underground drone base” operated by the conventional army, called the Artesh, somewhere in western Iran. In the footage, a young reporter boards a Bell 214 helicopter that reportedly takes off from Kermanshah’s 1st Army Aviation Base for a 40-minute blindfolded ride to the secret location. . . . When inside the large underground tunnel network—which looks very similar to an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile base—the reporter is shown rows of drones, including almost every significant model in the Artesh service.

Since the report aired, great speculation has surrounded the location of “Drone Base 313.” Some observers point to Dalahu, a mountainous region about 100 kilometers west of Kermanshah, based on a name stenciled on firefighting equipment seen in the video. Others point to the Shahid Asiaei 2nd Army Aviation Base in Masjed Soleyman, more than 300 kilometers southeast of Kermanshah. Both are unlikely.

To operate and maintain the diverse collection of drones displayed in the Iranian television report would be a headache for any Iranian operator or technician, requiring a range of different—and incompatible—control stations, equipment, and vehicles. It clearly points to a hastily set-up demonstration.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Intelligence, Iran, Middle East, Technology


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount