Iranian news has been reporting that it has captured another U.S. drone invading its airspace. Television reports on December 4, 2012 indeed appear to show a Boeing Scan Eagle Drone. At this time there is no way to independently verify Iran’s claims and the U.S. Navy is still stating all of its drones are accounted for. If in fact it is a U.S. drone as Iran claims, this again demonstrates the provocative actions the U.S. military continues to persecute in the Persian Gulf region against Iran.
Respective of Iran’s claims, it is totally plausible that they indeed captured a Scan Eagle, but the actual value more likely is in its propaganda rather than intelligence value. For starters, it is clear Iran has already intercepted more sophisticated drones such as Predators and or Reapers, and at least one RQ-170 Sentinel drone. The Sentinel is one of our most sensitive and secretive “stealth” reconnaissance and surveillance drones. In comparison to the Sentinel, the Scan Eagle would have to be considered a model airplane for hobbyists. It is smaller, far less sophisticated, relatively inexpensive, not stealth, and not intended for extreme endurance missions over long distances. Instead, it is small to medium-sized drone used to gather tactical level information from the battlefield.
Respective of damage control due to its loss, it is probably minimal on the intelligence front. Iran already knows the U.S. is spying on it. Second, it is a commercially developed drone originally designed to help fisherman locate fish so is not of a classified construction. Third, although it’s cameras just received an upgrade that may be of interest to the Iranians, they are a far cry from the highly sophisticated and classified sensor payload the captured Sentinel carried. Finally, if there is any intelligence value at all to the capture, it would be if the Scan Eagle was carrying additional undisclosed classified sensors designed to collect on Iran’s nuclear program. That would be of interest and highly valuable.
In typical fashion, the U.S. Navy is stating it has accounted for all of its drones. “Accounted for” doesn’t mean that they “have” all of their drones. In fact, lost aircraft can be “accounted” for if they know they went down and where. Further, the denial is only from the U.S. Navy. This says nothing about the greater U.S. military and intelligence community operating in the region. In fact, the USS Ponce, a special operations platform and the Mark V Special Operations Craft used by SEALs are known to launch them from their decks. As such, it is entirely plausible the craft was flown by SOCOM and the Navy is simply playing a game of semantics.
The impact of this on U.S-Iran relations is minimal and will simply be used as a propaganda victory for Iran. The IRGC will claim this demonstrates the great prowess of the Iranian military, but again, for those in the know that is joke. As a comparison, it would be like shooting down a kid’s model airplane and then declaring military dominance of the world. It’s pure unadulterated propaganda.
What isn’t propaganda is the fact the U.S. continues to invade sovereign Iranian territory at will. Had China or Iran attempted to fly reconnaissance and attack aircraft over highly sensitive nuclear or military facilities, the U.S. military would have intercepted the aircraft and shot them down if they refused to turn back. Had the Iranians done the exact same thing, which is a justifiable in defense of their nation, Western media and politicians would be quick to spin it into an act of war by the Iranians. The reality is the Washington needs to get out of the business of creating boogie men to continue to fuel fear to feed the military-industrial-complex. Even for those that disagree, the truth is that the U.S. has neither the will nor the resources to spare on another drawn out imperialist war without end. As such, military escalation in the region is of no benefit to U.S. national security. It’s time to consolidate and simply leave Iran’s neighbors to deal with Iran. It just isn’t our fight and our interests are not served by provoking one.
By Guiles Hendrik