The use of drones by terrorist organizations and the Iranian terrorist state
European perspective on radicalization
Drones have become quite prominent in recent wars. Turkey Bayraktar Drones, for example, were used in 2020 to destroy large amounts of Syrian regime armor, to turn the tide of the Libyan civil war, and to secure Azerbaijan’s victory over Russian-backed Armenia in the last tour over Nagorno-Karabakh. After Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, Bayraktar has been important not only in military terms to the Ukrainian government; it became a cultural symbol resistance to invasion.
Until recently, a discussion of drones and terrorist groups was supposed to refer to the controversial debate on the use of drones versus The Terrorists. But in recent years a new problem has arisen: the use of drones by terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS), Hezbollah, the Houthis, Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as non-religious groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In recent years, these terrorist groups have carried out drone attacks targeting different sites in Middle Eastern countries such as military bases, oil storage sites, airports, And so on. These attacks have prompted countries in the Middle East to strengthen their security strategies to counter possible drone attacks by terrorist groups.
Shortly after ISIS declared its “caliphate” in 2014, it began using drones in mostly conventional military operations to expand the borders of its small state, and as the coalition led by the United States was closing in on the Iraqi “capital” of the Islamic State, Mosul, in 2016-17, drones have become a major feature terrorists’ defensive strategy. One of the main managers of the drone program a British jihadist named Junaid Hussain. Hussain also doubled as ISIS’s cybersecurity guru and was one of its guides to terrorismtraining Western supporters of the Islamic State through acts of terrorism in Western cities.
It is crucial to note that drones were not used simply as a direct military tool – to drop munitions or carry out reconnaissance – but were used as an instrument of propaganda, that is, as a means indirectly to strengthen the Islamic State. ISIS used drones to capture footage of its operatives carrying out suicide car bombings, for example, and those footage was later used in media products that helped ISIS cohesion and recruitment. Islamic State.
Al-Qaeda has been much less active in the use of drone technology, but Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), was an exceptionespecially regarding the use of drones as a media and propaganda tool, and the mainstream insurgents that HTS has integrated with have achieved a famous drone swarm attack at a Russian base in Syria in January 2018, using homemade drones “assembled from a small engine, cheap plywood and a number of small rockets”.
With the destruction of the Caliphate in 2019 and the recovery of the Islamic State in rural desert areas, the drone program has become much less important for its tactics, but as drones become cheaper and more varied all the time, the next time ISIS breaks out he will have many more options. The PKK is probably the most important non-jihadist group to have made serious use of drones. The The PKK used drones as part of its terrorist campaign against Turkey, and in an attempt to counter Turkish efforts to uproot the PKK from their hideouts in the mountains of northern Iraq, with some success.
Hezbollah and the Houthis have used drones to attack different targets. Hezbollah has carried out several attacks against Israeli targets using Iranian drones. For example, Hezbollah launched three Iranian drones last July against the Karish offshore gas field, located in the sea between Israel and Lebanon. The drones Hezbollah has used belong to where they were made, and Iran has trained Hezbollah fighters on how to use drones in camps inside Syrian soil. They were also trained by Iranians on how to assemble drone parts after they fled from Iran via Syria. Similarly, the Houthis are supported by Iran to strengthen its military capacity, especially with drones. Shahed 131 and 136 are examples of Iranian-made drones used by the Houthis to attack several countries. Additionally, Hezbollah has offered training to Houthi militias on how to assemble Iranian drones and carry out drone attacks.
It is perhaps unsurprising in this situation that the world’s preeminent terrorist state, Iran, is implicated in the creation and proliferation of drones. The Iranian regime has made a major propaganda victory on the Americans in December 2011 by shooting down an American RQ-170 “Sentinel” drone over Iranian territory. That then-President Barack Obama admitted in public that he had requested the return of the drone, and the Iranians had refused, only added to the humiliation. But it turned out to be much more materially damaging than that.
The Iranians weren’t new to the drone game – they started using them at the end of the terrible war that the Iranian revolution waged with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, but the technology captured in 2011 has revived Iran’s drone capabilities over the past decade and Iran has nurtured those abilities throughout the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Network across the region. The IRGC’s division in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has used drones as part of Iran’s relentless war on Israel, and the IRGC’s Ansar Allah in Yemen has repeatedly used drones to harass Iran’s great regional rival, Saudi Arabia. The Iranians used drones directly, in a strategic level attack on the Saudi oil industry, in September 2019.
Iran has also used this drone technology to help other rogue actors. such an actor is chinaa close ally in the intelligence-sharing space: the two states collaborated in setting up CIA networks recently, for example, leading to dozens of deaths. Another malicious actor that Iran has aided is Russia. In the past few months alone, Iran sends drones to Russiawho used them in devastating attacks on civilian targets in Ukrainian cities.
The idea of terrorist groups acquiring drones, however, had seemed fanciful. After all, only one American Reaper cost $32 million. Even ISIS, once considered the richest terrorist organization in the world, has $25 million in reserves. However, the landscape has changed considerably.
Drone technology has now become much cheaper and more widespread, with a variety of perfectly legitimate and legal commercial and even recreational uses. In addition to the huge cost, a Reaper measures 36 feet in length, with a wingspan of 66 feet, limiting ownership to those with such storage space. Now, a drone capable of carrying an explosive payload is about a foot long and not much wider, and can be purchased on Amazon for fifty dollars.
Overall, drones are a force multiplier, for terrorists and counter-terrorists, providing cheaper and often more accurate alternatives, whether beheading attacks on terrorists by jet aircraft or attacks by terrorists on oil installations . Having drones in the hands of terrorists is a source of concern and a serious risk that threatens the stability of countries and the security of citizens. The use of drones by terrorist organizations is a major challenge for counter-terrorism policies, as terrorists see drones as easy, cheaper and reliable advantages.