Israel Claims Iran ‘Exporting Aerial Terrorism’ by Training Militias to Use Advanced Drones
10:15 GMT 12.09.2021 (Updated: 18:40 GMT 12.09.2021)
© AP Photo / Sepahnews In this photo released on Saturday, May 21, 2021, by Sepahnews, the website of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a new Gaza drone is displayed in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Sepahnews via AP)
© AP Photo / Sepahnews
Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States have repeatedly accused Iran of supplying militias, some of them allied with regional governments, with unmanned aerial vehicles used to attack oil refineries, military facilities, and other targets. Tehran has for the most part denied these allegations.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has accused Tehran of training militias from across the Middle East in the use of advanced drones directly at a military base situated in central Iran.
In a presentation at Reichman University in the town of Herzilya outside Tel Aviv on Sunday, Gantz claimed that “terrorists from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are receiving training on how to operate Iran-made drones in the Kashan Base north of Isfahan,” and alleged that “Kashan is leading Iran’s export of aerial terrorism in the region.”
The defence minister referred to these training operations as “emissary terrorism,” suggesting that the Islamic Republic was using proxy “organised terror armies” in the region to “help it achieve its economic, political and military goals.”
Gantz accompanied his presentation with satellite photos of the alleged facility at Kashan, showing a runway containing multiple UAVs, including an “Iranian clone of [the] RQ-170,” a US flying wing-shaped drone that was hijacked and captured by Iran in late 2011 as it illegally flew over Iranian airspace in the country’s northeast.
Gantz suggested that Yemen’s Houthi militias, as well as Shiite militias in Iraq, have obtained “dozens” of advanced UAVs from Iran for use against Saudi and American forces. He went on to predict that Syria will get “hundreds” of drones, and to claim that attempts to smuggle the UAVs into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah are taking place. He also alleged that Iran is trying to transfer blueprints to allow Palestinian militias including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip to build Iranian-designed drones independently.
© Photo : Israeli Defence MinistrySlide from Defence Minister Gantz' presentation on Iran's alleged drone operations in the Middle East. 12 September 2021.
Slide from Defence Minister Gantz' presentation on Iran's alleged drone operations in the Middle East. 12 September 2021.
© Photo : Israeli Defence Ministry
Gantz did not specify what connection any of the militia forces alleged to be cooperating with Iran have to “terrorism.” In Syria, government forces have engaged in counter-terrorism operations against the likes of Daesh (ISIS)* and al-Qaeda*. The “Shiite militias” which Gantz referred to in Iraq are allied to the Baghdad government, and form an umbrella group known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, which was created to fight Daesh in 2014. In Yemen, the Houthis are combating a Saudi-led military coalition seeking to restore the ousted government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi by force. Finally, in Lebanon, Hezbollah, which Israel and its US and European allies classify as a “terrorist organisation”, is a leading political and militant force among the country’s Shiites. Hezbollah has also previously deployed its fighters to Syria to assist Damascus in its fight against the jihadists.
At the same time that it has accused Iran of “emissary terrorism,” Israel has been known to have carried out its own drone and missile attacks into most of the above-mentioned countries, launching hundreds of illegal strikes into Syria against suspected “Iranian proxy” forces, targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon with drones, missiles and aircraft-dropped bombs, and carrying out secretive airstrikes into Iraq.
Iran has made no secret of its provision of military support and training assistance in the 2014-2017 conflict against Daesh to local forces in Iraq and Syria, with the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force taking an active advisory role in this conflict. The Quds Force has also been actively involved in assisting Hezbollah in Lebanon since at least the mid-2000s. Iran has denied that it has aided Yemen’s Houthi militia, claiming it is impossible to provide any aid, including humanitarian deliveries, to a country facing a naval and air blockade by the Saudi-led coalition. Tehran has also formally denied providing assistance to militias in Iraq which have attacked American forces, occasionally accusing the US of feigning attacks to justify their continued occupation of the Middle Eastern country.
* Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.