The Daily Beast reports: Iran has been providing Syria’s regime with drones—some of them inspired by American technology—and they’re already playing a significant role in keeping Bashar Assad in power. On Sunday, Tehran announced it had replicated a top-of-the-line U.S. drone it claimed it captured in 2011, raising the possibility it will send still more sophisticated aerial robots into the skies over Damascus.
In some respects, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Iran’s robust drone program dates back to the early 1980s, and it first tried to weaponize the birds some 30 years ago, long before American Predators and Reapers first soared aloft.
The Middle East was the first great proving ground for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, as they’re called. During the 1980s, Israel flew drones over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to spot Syrian artillery and anti-aircraft positions, allowing the Israeli Air Force to knock out the Syrian air defenses with minimal risks to its pilots. At about the same time, Iran began using drones to spy on Iraqi positions in its epic war against Saddam Hussein. It was during that bitter conflict that Iranian engineers crudely mounted Soviet rocket-propelled grenades on their drones and fired them at Iraqi troops. [Continue reading…]