Category Archives: Drones

The Israel-Lebanon Conflict Reignited

The United Nations has cautioned against the escalation of this conflict by calling for both sides to exercise maximum restraint.

As Israel launched a number of airstrikes along the Lebanese-Syrian border on Sunday (25 August) morning, President of Lebanon Michel Aoun labelled the Israeli provocation as a ‘declaration of war.’ With the Israeli media identifying the objective behind this attack as targeting a group led by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a preventive measure against an impending ‘kamikaze-style’ armed drone attack on Northern Israel, these airstrikes were also said to have resulted in the death of two Hezbollah operatives: Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher. However, it must be noted that the airstrikes were not simply an isolated incident – they were followed by an Israeli drone attack on Beirut. It was reported that alleged Israeli drones had also crashed in Lebanon’s capital, suburban city, eliciting a strongly-worded condemnation from the Lebanese government and from Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s incumbent Secretary General. ‘I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard. Wait for us one, two, three, four days,’ exclaimed Hassan Nasrallah to his supporters during a rare public appearance on Sunday.

‘What happened in Syria and Lebanon last night is very, very dangerous.’ He further added that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ‘would be mistaken if he thinks that this issue can go unnoticed. The time at which Israeli war jets used to strike targets in Lebanon while the usurping entity in Palestine kept safe has ended… Be prepared and wait for us.’ President Aoun too, accused Israel of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty during his meeting with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. ‘What happened was similar to a declaration of war which allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty,’ the Lebanese president’s office quoted him as saying on Twitter, on Monday. He went on to say that ‘We are a people seeking peace, not war, and we don’t accept anyone threatening us in any war.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Palestine, Politics, The Middle East, United States

Analysis: Iran and the Drone Standoff

If Iran plays its cards wisely, it may gain more prestige than the US out of this incident … Iran, the scapegoat for Trump’s goals, has admirably held its ground in the face of a greater power.

The world breathed a sigh of relief when President Trump called off US airstrikes on three Iranian targets this Friday in response to the shooting down of the US Global Hawk surveillance drone. “I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” he said, adding that he was “in no hurry” to confront Iran. It is rather ironic that the US should present the sparing of human lives as its key point in calling off the attack when it has profited by selling millions of dollars’ worth of arms to different states involved in regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. When trying to understand US behavior it is worth considering two factors: Trump’s short-sighted focus on re-election coupled with the fact he’s a businessman in the guise of a politician.

Trump is trying to strike what he believes is a “better deal” while also benefitting powerful American military interests. But the ongoing standoff is increasing global volatility, making war almost inevitable. It is also no secret that the US accounts for 34% of all global arms sales selling more than double the amount of weapons than Russia (the second largest exporter of arms). With such a lucrative industry in place and Trump’s business acumen, it stands to reason he would highly benefit by creating a situation that would escalate conflict till just below the threshold of war inspiring enough fear and tension for states to buy arms from the US. On the surface Trump appears to be making good on his promises: a tougher stance on Iran while also not committing any ground troops in foreign lands. He is well aware that the age of conventional warfare is over: the US has been striking back by employing sanctions, engaging in surveillance via drones and launching cyber-attacks. Continue reading

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Filed under Cyber Warfare, Discussion, Drones, Iran, Nuclear Energy, Politics, The Middle East, Trump, United States

‘The Legacy of Barack Obama’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

Obama was a man of consensus … Trump is Obama’s antithesis and is like a bull in a China shop – watch video

His blackness and Muhammad Ali antics and punchy talk endeared him to poor non-white folks everywhere. Many whites loved him equally. But the black president who set out to do so much achieved alarmingly little. His administration conducted more drone attacks than his predecessor George Bush and he deported more immigrants than any other president. He was spineless on Syria and failed to close down Guantánamo Bay. A very ugly aspect of Obama’s legacy is that his failing administration ultimately came to be replaced by Trump’s extremists who are determined to erase all signs of his blackness from the White House. But at least he did not make personal attacks on journalists. For historian Simon Schama, Trump’s America points to Kennedy’s nation of migrants being afflicted by a “split personality”. Yet Schama also stresses “the moral stench of xenophobia is nothing new in US history.” Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees and the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer, says “the refugee embodies fear, failure and flight”. Despite opposing Trump, he argues with some vehemence “it is un-American to be a refugee”.

Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, a leading proponent of Brexit and an influential right-wing pundit, called Trump a “cruel jester” not long ago. More recently he wrote: “Trump’s style makes other politicians feel that he is almost as dangerous a friend as an enemy”. Moore said May was “embarrassed in Ankara” while meeting Erdoğan as she knew nothing of the Muslim ban affecting dual British nationals but weirdly claimed a “special relationship” with America. But now John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has embarrassed her by stating that Trump is “unfit” to address MPs. Continue reading

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Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Drones, Europe, Human Rights, Iran, Islamophobia, PIIA, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Middle East, UK, United States

Britain to Bomb ‘Islamic State’ in Syria

British MPs voted 397 votes to 223 – a majority of 174 – and approved airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and hours later the RAF was in action. Ministers predict British involvement in the conflict for at least two years.

How strange that David Cameron should so quickly and randomly shift his military focus from the Damascus regime to the “medieval murderers” of ISIS in Raqqa – the group’s nerve centre or the “head of the snake” which needs to be “crushed”. But given the frequency and scale of the attacks mounted by the extremist group, it is not surprising that the slippery British prime minister is finding it quite easy to cash in on the short-term counter-terrorism/foreign policy windfall options available to him. Proceedings lacked the sobriety one would associate with a decision to bomb another country, a decision that will inevitably kill innocent civilians. MPs cheered the vote to expand the war initiative but the parties remained divided. With emotions running deep, the British Parliament exposed its crusader proclivities and MPs who dared to vote against Cameron’s will were labelled as a “bunch of terrorist sympathisers” the night before the vote. Four Tornados from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus took part in the operation against ISIS near Omar oil fields soon after MPs voted to approve military action. Moreover, six Typhoons also arrived in Cyprus from Scotland.

The recent surge in terrorist attacks helped Cameron to obtain Parliament’s approval for the RAF to conduct air raids against ISIS in Syria. Here is a short list of some attacks. On 10 October, in Ankara more than a 100 people were killed at a peace rally by explosions. On 31 October, a bomb planted by the ISIS affiliated Sinai Province organisation brought down a Russian Metrojet over Sinai, Egypt killing all 224 passengers on board. On 4 November, also in Sinai, nine people were killed at a police club by Sinai Province. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Human Rights, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, UK, United States

‘The Future of Syria’: A Talk by H.E. Ambassador Radwan Loutfi

Everyone has strategic interests in Syria … Syria was enjoying a lifestyle like nowhere else in the Arab world. We were almost free

Syria was once the underlying bedrock of Arab nationalism; it used to be a source of pride for Arab secularists. At least in Arab eyes, it was a bastion of resistance against Israeli tyranny and American imperialism. But these days the country that exerted such significant political and military clout in the bloody Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) is mortally wounded by its own apocalyptic war, nothing short of a Jihād. On 27 November 2015, the Syrian ambassador in Pakistan, HE Radwan Loutfi gave a talk entitled The Future of Syria in the historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The astute diplomat was unforgiving in his denouncement of foreign interests plaguing the survival of his country. But eager to build unity among his fellow Syrians, he explained: “I am Sunni, but I will be the first to protect the shrine of Sayeda Zainab.” Urging world leaders against further warmongering, he called for an immediate ceasefire followed by a strong willed political process “that would leave only Syrians to discuss” and decide the future of their annihilated homeland.

Yet the diplomat explained that a ceasefire in Syria remained “impossible” until the terrorists were rooted out. He also accused Turkey of having trade links with ISIS. His talk comes against the backdrop of the terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 130 and wounding hundreds of others, and the downing of the Russian Metrojet airliner in Egypt causing 224 fatalities. Insofar as military action is concerned, these days an “ISIS first” mentality prevails because its extremists in Raqqa are the “head of the snake” and must, of course, be “crushed”. Despite the rhetoric constantly pouring out of London, Paris and Washington Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Drones, Iran, ISIS, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Sanctions, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States

Drone Wars: Prospects, Proliferation and Emerging Challenges

As noted in our post The Iran Deal: Diplomacy Update, Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme may be outpacing New Delhi’s. Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon’s study, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, argues that our country has been producing 20 nuclear warheads annually in comparison to India’s five. (Presently, Islamabad has 120 warheads in comparison to New Delhi’s 100.) They estimate that at this rate Pakistan will, within a decade, join the ranks of Russia and the US in the league table of states possessing the largest nuclear arsenals. We also touched upon the copious use of drone strikes, by American and British forces, in Future Trends in Syria’s War and this post sheds further light on this important issue – one which chronically affects Pakistan. Emerging research suggests that apart from the US, Britain, Israel, China, and Iran – which have developed drones for military use – numerous Asian and European countries are pursuing drone programmes to reap the rewards of this unique class of weapon.

This post looks into the proliferation of drones and examines new trends emerging in this field. It has been reported that there have been 15 US strikes in Pakistan this year and only last week (6 September 2015) the Pakistan army confirmed that it killed three high profile militants in a first ever indigenous drone attack (by a UAV named “Burraq”) in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. Such successes aside, one thing is for sure. The ethical, legal and tactical dilemmas thrown up by drone warfare will only intensify as their use becomes more and more widespread. Technically known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have become the weapon of choice for carrying out clinical target killings Continue reading

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