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C’mon…Now you’re just making stuff up!

By November 12, 2019June 30th, 2020Drones, Iran, IRGC, Isreal, Military, Persian Gulf, Tehran, The Weekly, UAVs

“The problem with the internet is that anyone can just make stuff up.” Abraham Lincoln

“Fake news has been around as long as news has been around.” Al Gore

“You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”   Daniel Patrick Moynihan

There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” Sun Tzu

Have you ever heard someone say something that was so full of holes that you had a hard time imagining how they could really think that anyone would believe them? -And then you find out that a bunch of people are believing them? So sets the stage for this week’s edition of “More than Meets the Eye.”

As a reminder to the rest of the international community that Iran has not gone away, they have announced to the world that once again they have shot down, with their formidable air defense, a “foreign” drone which was invading their airspace. It appears that Iran cannot tolerate being out of the limelight. They want the leaders of the world to be ever aware of their presence.

We will look at the drone downing along with some of the implications of whether or not it actually happened.  We will explore some of the second and third-order effects of this event and whether or not they exist. As always, there is much more than meets the eye considering the subject at hand.

Iranian air defenses may not be as formidable as they claim to be and the so-called  “foreign” drone may, in fact, have been an Iranian drone that the Iranian air defenses shot down. These kinds of announcements may be more intended to shape the opinion of the rest of the world about how sophisticated the Iranian military has become and to deter or at a minimum, cause pause by any potential aggressors who might be tempted to infiltrate Iranian air space. This is a common practice in warfare and politics. In the magician world, it is called, “smoke and mirrors.” The illusion of something is created when in actuality it is not real.

I would never advocate underestimating one’s enemy. This is a fatal mistake that armies have made for millenniums, but having a sober understanding of the capabilities of your enemies is critical. Military leaders and politicians are always trying to make their potential adversaries believe that they are much more powerful than they really are. Discerning between reality and illusion is always a key element to survival on both the local and global levels.

Review.

On Friday, November 9th, 2019, newly appointed commander of the Iranian army’s air defense force, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard announced that Iran’s army had just shot down an unidentified drone that was violating Iran’s airspace near the port city of Bandar-e Mahshahr. This city is in the southwestern province of Khuzestan on the Persian Gulf coast.

Brigadier General Sabahifard said that the intruding unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was brought down early Friday before it could reach “sensitive areas,” thanks to the precision of Iran’s homegrown air defense system. ”This decisive move and the firing of a missile were a reaction to the intrusion by a foreign drone into our country’s airspace,” he added. The General did not specify the drone’s country of origin but emphasized that Iran has repeatedly warned that it is fully prepared to give a firm response to any violation of its airspace.

Meanwhile, governor of Khuzestan Gholam Reza Shariati told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the wreckage of the aircraft had been recovered and was being investigated. He emphasized that the downed drone “definitely belonged to a foreign country.”  He also said that the results of investigations would be announced later on.

Interesting point #1: It is odd that both General Sabahifard and Governor Shariati emphasized that the drone was definitely a “foreign” one. This is strange because the only other option would be for the drone to be domestic. 

Is there a precedent for an Iranian drone being shot down by Iranian air defenses? As a matter of fact, there is. In the same province of Khuzestan on October 23rd, an Iranian drone was said to have crashed. There is some evidence that it was shot down over Iranian air space. My point is that the Iranian air defense is currently under mounting pressure to step up its game as there is a lot of concern over their ability to defend their borders from foreign incursions.

I mentioned above that the commander of the Iranian army’s air defense force, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard is a newly appointed commander. Where did the old commander go and why? 

Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) commander, Brigadier General Farzad Ismaili, who had been in office since 2010, was fired by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after he kept secret that Israeli Air Force (IAF), US-built,  F-35 stealth fighters had violated Iran’s airspace in March of 2019. It was only following the March report of the Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti based news service that the intelligence services of the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian intelligence ministry began to investigate the case, under Khamenei’s direct orders. In other words, the Israeli’s came into Iranian air space, flew their mission, most likely a reconnaissance mission and left the air space without Iranian air defenses ever detecting them.

It was only discovered after hearing about it from a news service from another country. This tells me there are some holes in the formidable air defenses of Iran. Brigadier General Farzad Ismaili was replaced shortly thereafter by Brigadier General Fard.  It would stand to reason that Iran’s air defenses are standing at a rather high state of alert presently. To be fair, Brigadier General Ismaili was not terminated from his post until his commander discovered that he had tried to cover up the Israeli incursion. Any military command would not take that kind of deception lightly.

Interesting point #2:  Not only did two high leaders use the phrase, “foreign drone” repeatedly, they both went out of their way to highlight that the drone was shot down by the domestically produced Mersad system, which was deemed operational in 2018 and fires Shahin surface-to-air missiles. They both noted that this incident would mark the first known use of this particular system in military action. Chief of the Iranian army, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said that the unidentified drone was downed by the homegrown Mersad defense missile system. 

I find this curious because this is sloppy use of what is called, an “Information Operations” campaign. There is no really good reason to show your hand on what kind of system you use to defeat your enemy. There are many good reasons to keep that information confidential. It was, however, as if they were speaking from a common set of talking points. They both emphasized that the system was domestically produced and that it was the first time it was used. 

My conjecture would be that they are trying to mask the presence of the Russian built S-300’s that they recently purchased from Moscow. This could be tied to the fact that the Israeli’s already defeated the S-300 radars once and they did not want to be embarrassed by that again. It could also be that it didn’t really happen and they are trying not to put any more cards on the table than necessary. This would be much better intelligence tradecraft.

Interesting point #3:  In the past, the Iranians were quick to point the finger at the perpetrator, usually the USA. This time they continue to refer to the drone as a foreign drone. My guess is that they are trying to fabricate some evidence so that they can parade it in front of the press and blame it on their enemy. This simply has not been forthcoming in this event. They either genuinely do not know whose drone it is, or it may be one of their own and they don’t want the world to know they shot down one of their own unmanned aircraft…again. Either way, this is not good for Brigadier General Sabahifard’s longevity in his new job.

I am only able to point to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) sources for unfolding information. I will continue to look at any evidence that may arise. But for now, this looks like an embarrassing situation gone bad for the Iranian air defense forces. They simply cannot have the world thinking that they are incapable of defending their borders from aerial intrusion. We will see how long General Fard keeps his job. It looks pretty shaky. 

Why.

The Iranians continue to find themselves in extremely compromising situations. They have hidden from a desperately naive world for years the fact that they are still building a nuclear weapon, even under the JCPOA agreement. 

Global leaders believe that they can control the Iranians by selling them stuff. Iran is led by an oligarchy of leaders who are driven by a deep religious conviction that the world would be a much better place if they were in charge. Let there be no doubts. That is their aim. They want to create an Islamic hegemony that is ruled by an Islamic leader, namely an Ayatollah. What they fail to fully comprehend is that the Islamic world is far more fractured by the Sunni and Shi’a divide than they will ever imagine. 

Many Sunni Muslims believe that the world would be a much better place if it was ruled by Shari’a law and a Caliph (Sunni Islamic ruler). They both believe the same narrative, but neither will ever allow the other to rule. That would go completely against their understanding of their particular Islamic meta-narrative. 

Action.

We need to understand global history better. We need to understand other cultures better. We need to understand our own culture better.

So much of what is happening is not simply about oil or money. It is about narrative. It is about what people believe. We all have a story that we understand. It may be accurate. It may be partly accurate. It may even be completely inaccurate, but we have a narrative.

Understanding where we came from and how we got here is vital to comprehending the different dynamics which are happening in the world today. Grasping geopolitics is also key.  It is critical to understand how other cultures have developed as they have. I recommend a couple of books below, that can help us get a better grasp, particularly on the East-West divide. You might be surprised to find out that the world has not always been dominated by the West. We all learned by studying Western Civilization in school. My question has been: Why did we not study global civilizations? If we had, we might be able to better negotiate what is happening in the world today.

Good books… 

“What went wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East” -Bernard Lewis.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thomas Friedman

The follow-up.

The feedback.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:  david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

https://irannewsdaily.com/2019/11/iran-shot-foreign-drone-intruding-coastal-limits/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/iranian-air-defenses-shoot-down-drone-over-countrys-south-local-media-reports/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/iranian-army-says-it-has-shot-down-foreign-drone-11573225488

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/iranian-commander-kept-secret-israeli-f-35-stealth-fighters-had-violated-iran-airspace

https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2019/iran-191108-presstv02.htm?_m=3n%252e002a%252e2724%252ejv0ao0az9m%252e2ii7

https://travelwirenews.com/iran-releases-video-of-us-drone-shoot-down-1474867/

https://www.forces.net/news/iran-shoots-down-unknown-drone-over-persian-gulf

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/iran-downs-drone-southern-port-city-mahshahr-report-191108093611802.html

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/f-35.html

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/441841/Army-chief-Unidentified-drone-was-downed-by-Mersad-missile-system

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980818000570

https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2018/10/army-info-ops/

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