The U.S. and Iran have both recently deployed unmanned drones in Iraq as ISIS has taken over much of the northern and western region of the country and appears to be in position to threaten the capital city of Baghdad.
According to a Fox Newsreport, an unnamed senior U.S. defense official has confirmed that the U.S. has been using unmanned drones over Iraq and – in a sign the situation is believed likely to further escalate – has recently sent armed drones. According to an AP report, the purpose of the Predator drones, which are armed with Hellfire missiles, is officially defensive. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Iran has also secretly sent drones into Iraq.
According to the AP report, the armed drones’ purpose is to protect U.S. civilian and military interests in the Iraqi capital. The U.S. currently officially has 90 Special Forces troops in Iraq out of 300 that have been promised. In accordance with President Barack Obama’s “no boots on the ground” policy, the Special Forces soldiers will serve in an advisory capacity only. Should ISIS forces attack the U.S. Embassy in Iraq or U.S. Consulates in the country, and should the administration decide to defend them, the armed drones could be activated for that purpose.
According to the New York Times, Iran has about a dozen elite Quds troops in Baghdad in a similar advisory capacity. The purpose of the Iranian drones in the country was not clear, nor was it clear whether the Iranian drones are armed.
Meanwhile, according to a CBS report, former CIA Director Michael Morell insists that the current crisis with ISIS in Iraq is not the result of any failure on the part of the intelligence community. He insists that the Obama administration was kept abreast of the rising threat the terrorist group, which has the stated intention of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The CBS report quotes Morell saying:
“I’ve read several times that this is an intelligence failure. Absolutely not, absolutely not. [ISIS predecessor] al Qaeda in Iraq was essentially defeated when the U.S. military left at the end of 2011, and the intelligence community monitored the growth of al Qaeda post-2011 in great detail with intelligence reporting, with analysis. We made very clear that this group is becoming more and more dangerous.”
While some in the West have questioned the viability of the threat of an Islamic caliphate in Syria-Iraq, Saudi Arabia appears to be taking the situation very seriously, adding to the country’s longstanding concerns about al Qaeda forces entering their country through Yemen. A CNN report quotes an unnamed Saudi government official’s concerns:
“Saudi Arabia shares a long border with Iraq and the government is aware that ISIS is very close to Iraq’s border with Jordan, and is also aware ISIS has been very public about its intention to attempt to attack Saudi Arabia. While Saudi security forces are at the ready and very strong, the threat emanating from Yemen is (also) still very real.”
What do you think? Is sending unmanned drones enough to protect U.S. interests in Iraq? Should the U.S. be concerned about Iran’s drones in the country?