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Drone Games

October 19, 2012

by Avi Melamed

On October 11 I published an article Mysterious Blasts as Hezbollah Sinks in the Syrian Mud.  This article is a follow-up to that piece.

On October 6 Hezbollah, a Lebanese organization, launched a drone which infiltrated southern Israel.  The drone was shot down by the Israeli Air Force.

On October 11, in a televized speech, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, formally claimed responsibility for the incident.  In addition, he announced that the drone was manufactured by Iran and assembled in Lebanon.  Over the course of the first few days following the incident, Iranian web sites associated with the IRG (The Iranian Revolutionary Guards) hinted that Iran was involved in the launch, and described it as a remarkable achievement and a major Israeli failure.

However, it’s possible that what’s being discussed in the back rooms of Hezbollah and their patrons, the IRG, might be totally different.

It seems as if the IRG has changed their tune and Iran is now trying to minimize its role in the incident.

According to a source which I consider to be reliable, most senior IRG officers are not happy (to say the least) with Nasrallah’s announcement that “the drone was manufactured by Iran.”

Another strange thing is that Hezbollah itself, in a most atypical way, did not make much of an effort, beyond the speech, to maximize their potential political dividends from the “achievement”.

The change in the Iranian tune, as well as Hezbollah’s relatively low profile, may indicate that some people within Hezbollah and the IRG are having second thoughts as to whether sending the drone was such a wise thing to do.  What could be the reason for this change of thinking?

Hezbollah launched the drone as part of a “Muscle Flexing” tactic – both real and imaginary – of Iran and Hezbollah aimed to achieve objectives including:

Present Iran as a state which possesses advanced military and technological capacities.  By doing that, Iran hopes to deter a possible military strike on its nuclear program.

Signal Iran’s ability and willingness to use its proxies in the region set a fire – if needed – to protect Iran’s interests.

Restore Hezbollah’s declining reputation and image in the Arab world, and to rehabilitate its declining deterrent capabilities caused by the fact Hezbollah has sustained significant losses while sinking in the Syrian mud.

Weere those objectives achieved by the launching of the drone?  It’s doubtful:

Hezbollah’s image was not restored; in fact the result of the action was the exact opposite. The anger of the Arab world towards Nasrallah and Hezbollah has increased.  By launching the drone, Hezbollah again showed the Arab world that they are a proxy of the Iranian regime which is loathed by the Arab world.  Furthermore, it proved that Hezbollah is cynically willing to sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of Iranian interests.

Over the past few years, Iran announced a series of alleged military achievements including the development of missiles, satellites, submarines, drones and more.  This is a well-calculated Iranian tactic aimed to deter a possible military strike on its nuclear project.  It is doubtful whether launching drones will deter a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.  Underestimating Iran’s military capacity would be a mistake – however, their true capabilities are not close to what they claim to possess – I strongly recommended to question some reports describing the drone launched by Hezbollah as “sophisticated.”

Accumulating reports suggest that some high level figures within the Iranian regime and the IRG argue that the tactic of “Muscle Flexing” may be counterproductive.

Launching the drone plays right into the hands of the international community which views Iran as a dangerous and destabilizing force thus, justifying the sanctions on Iran.  Indeed, a week after the incident the West’s sanctions on the Iranian collapsing economy were intensified.

Doubts and questions keep Hezbollah and the IRG busy:

Was the Israeli interception a calculated move aimed to mislead Iran and Hezbollah regarding Israel’s true early detection capacities?

What did Israel learn about the drone and Iran’s capability during the in-air monitoring phase and after it was shot down?

Hezbollah and the IRG are in the dark.  The sea of information, analysis, rumors and disinformation published regarding the issue increases the darkness…

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