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HERMES 45, a new drone by Elbit Systems, which it describes as a ‘Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System’ (STUAS), made its first appearance at the Paris Airshow 2019..(Photo by: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
Drone war politics over the Gulf between Iran and US
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
07/20/2019
The incident is the latest since tensions rose in May.
The US says it downed an Iranian drone using electronic jamming while Iran says it didn’t lose a drone, leading to growing questions about what happened on Thursday in the tense waters off the coast of Iran.

According to US officials, numerous reports and US President Donald Trump, the Iranian drone had come within a thousand yards of the USS Boxer and was brought down by some kind of electronic weapon. Trump painted a more explosive picture of the event, noting that the Iranian drone was one of the latest of “many provocative and hostile actions” and that it was “immediately destroyed.” Electronic jamming alone wouldn’t necessarily destroy a drone.

The incident is the latest since tensions between the two countries rose in May. Initially, Iran tried using sabotage against oil tankers on May 12 and June 13. But drones are also a part of Iran’s arsenal. Not only have Iranian-backed Houthis used drones against Saudi Arabia, an attack on May 13 in Saudi Arabia allegedly was made by a drone flown from Iraq by an Iranian-allied Shi’ite militia. Tehran has had the upper hand in some of the drone wars with the US over the Gulf. An MQ-9 Reaper was shot down near Yemen on June 6. Then on June 20, a Global Hawk US drone was shot down over the Gulf of Oman in an incident that almost led to US air strikes.

Since then things have changed again. Iran harassed a British oil tanker on July 11. Iran has been monitored US drone and surveillance activity, something it made clear in claiming that it could have shot down a US surveillance aircraft in June. In the latest incident an Iranian drone came close to a US warship. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US views as a terrorist organization, has vowed to show footage from the drone of the US ship. What this tells us is that the IRGC is conducting the drone operations. This is not surprising, since the IRGC used drones to attack Kurdish dissidents on June 12. The IRGC has a special drone unit and has built up its drone arm in recent years.
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