US CENTCOM: Iran drone threat in Iraq

Drones are an increasing threat to US forces in Iraq. There have been at least four drone attacks, most recently on Sunday when drones, likely operated by Iranian backed militias, attacked Al-Asad base. They were shot down. On May 8, another drone incident took place and in April a drone attacked a secret CIA hangar in Erbil airport in the Kurdish region of Iraq. There was also a drone attack on May 11.  At a briefing with US Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie on Monday, he discussed the increasing drone threat. “We are seeing pressure from Iranian-affiliated militant groups that want to push us out of Iraq, and the latest manifestation of that has been the use of small unmanned aerial systems, or drones,” he said The top US general in the Middle East has frequently warned about drone threats, including those by terrorists using small quadcopters. ISIS used drones. The Iran drone threat is different and more sophisticated. It includes kamikaze drones that are as large as a person carrying a warhead and using precise coordinates to carry out attacks. Because they have a pre-planned route, they are hard to jam and can be hard to shoot down. In an attack on Erbil, reports alleged the drone used a civilian flight path to avoid detection or interception. “Some of them are very small, some are a little bit larger – all can be very lethal. And they are resorting to this technique because they have been unable to force the Government of Iraq to require that we leave,” said McKenzie. “So political pressure has not worked for them; now they’re turning to a kinetic approach. “And that is very concerning to me. As always, we have a variety of measures there that we can defend ourselves,” he said.  He also discussed the drone threat to Saudi Arabia by the Iranian-backed Houthis. Clearly, drones are increasingly being used as a strategy and tactic by Iran across the region. They traffic the drones or the technology to build them to proxies such as the Houthis in Yemen, pro-Iran militias in Iraq, or Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. During the recent Gaza war, the Iron Dome defense system downed drones for the first time. The threat in Iraq is increasing, the McKenzie has hinted at better air defense or “kinetic” approaches to stop the drones. Reports say that the C-RAM was used to shoot them down at Al-Asad base.

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