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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/27/22

Washington's Russian Drone Fantasy

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According to the official U.S. government narrative - a "desperate" Russia" - suffering significant battlefield reversals in Ukraine, including the loss of "large numbers" of reconnaissance drones, while its own military industrial capacity lacks the ability to provide adequate replacements due to Russia's "economic isolation" - has turned to Iran for assistance.

"Our information," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan declared, "indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAV's [unmanned aerial vehicles], including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline." Sullivan said. "It's unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already."

Sullivan's assessment was drawn from U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Russian officials had twice visited Iran - " on June 8 and July 5 " - for the purpose of observing at least two versions of Iranian UAVs in operation.

Both visits took place at Kashan Airbase, in central Iran. The Kashan facility has been publicly identified by Israel as the main training facility for Iran's UAV program. According to Sullivan, these visits represent the first by Russian officials. "This suggests ongoing Russian interest in acquiring Iranian attack-capable UAVs," Sullivan noted.

The Biden administration believes that Russia is seeking to acquire "hundreds" of the Iranian UAVs, and that Iran is prepared to begin training Russian operators on their use in the near future.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby put the final spin on the story: "It was important to make it clear to the world that we know that Russia needs these additional capabilities," Kirby said. "They are expanding their resources at an accelerated rate."

C.I.A. Director William Burns echoed this assessment during a recent presentation at the Aspen Institute. "It's important to remind ourselves," Burns told attendees, speaking about the alleged Russian effort to procure Iranian UAVs, "that it's a reflection, in some ways, of the deficiencies of Russia's defense industry today, and the difficulties they're having after significant losses so far in the war against Ukraine."

Information Warfare

The announcements by Sullivan, Kirby, and Burns, appear to be part of an ongoing information warfare campaign being waged by the United States and its allies on behalf of Ukraine, where, according to NBC News, the National Security Council "deploys declassified intelligence even when confidence in the accuracy of the information wasn't high in order to undermine Moscow's propaganda and prevent Russia from defining how the war is perceived in the world," or, more simply put, "to get inside Russia President Vladimir Putin's head."

The timing of the release of the drone intelligence, coming as it did on the eve of Putin's visit to Tehran to meet with the Iranian leadership, and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, suggests that Sullivan was applying the information warfare template to this trip in an attempt to shift the narrative away from Putin's real goals - addressing the ongoing Syrian crisis and expanding diplomatic, military, and economic ties with two of the region's most critical state actors. Putin's Tehran visit, taken at face value, undermined U.S. policy objectives in so far as it showed Russia to be confidently assertive, and actively engaged in regional security and economic affairs.

[Related: PATRICK LAWRENCE: 21st Century Order]

By releasing the drone intelligence, the Biden administration sought to show the Russian leader as weakened, and desperate for outside assistance to offset a looming military defeat in Ukraine. Based upon the results of Putin's Tehran visit - furtherance of a political versus a military solution to the Syrian crises and the signing of a series of oil-and-gas development projects worth some $40 billion in total - the U.S. goal was not met. This is especially the case when the strong showing of Putin is contrasted with the relatively weak performance of U.S. President Joe Biden during his four-day sojourn through Israel and Saudi Arabia, which took place on the eve of Putin's Tehran jaunt.

The issue of UAVs as a symbol of Russian military weakness has been a centerpiece of anti-Russian propaganda promulgated by Western intelligence services for some time now. Back in May, the British Defense Intelligence Service published a report detailing its assessment of the role played by UAV technology in the Russian military operation. "The Russia-Ukraine war has seen Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) playing a pivotal role for both sides," the report noted, "although they have suffered a high rate of attrition. UAVs have proved vulnerable both to being shot down and to electronic jamming."

The British highlighted their assessment that Russia was seeking to replicate an operational concept known as - "Reconnaissance Strike" - that had been developed and refined by its forces in Syria. This concept, the British declared, "uses reconnaissance UAVs to identify targets to be struck by combat jets or artillery." What worked well in Syria, the British assessed, wasn't working in Ukraine, due to the high casualty rate that the British alleged Russia to be suffering.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)

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