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


Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden