The Dangers of Iran’s Drone Diplomacy

Tehran’s decision to provide its allies in Moscow with military drones, along with missiles, has called international attention to its penchant for exporting such technologies. Although these weapons are likely to have little strategic impact on the war in Ukraine, argues Alex Grinberg, they have already shown that they can cause much suffering. They can also do much damage elsewhere:

Iran has supplied drones to its loyalists across the Middle East, including Hizballah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, and pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq. Venezuela also assembles Iranian drones, and more recently news about Iranian drone supply to the Polisario Front in Algeria has been triggering concern about stability in North Africa.

An example of “made-in-Iran” regional destabilization in the past five years includes the use of Iran-orchestrated attack drones by Yemeni Houthi rebels against the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Houthis launched a series of attacks on March 23, 2017, crashing unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the coalition’s Patriot surface-to-air missile-defense system. Since then, they have deployed several Iran-made UAVs with explosive payloads over greater distances. On September 14, 2019, the Houthis used Iranian drones to attack oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia, better known as the Aramco attacks.

The IDF reported that Iran attempted to dispatch firearms and ammunition to Gaza with a drone. . . . Other destabilizing actors in the region who historically were recipients of Russian arms now increasingly show interest in Iranian drone supply.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Algeria, Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, War in Ukraine

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority