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Intelligence International Relations Security

The Drone in the Desert

Military drone
Military drone. Image by CliffStreetPhotography/flickr.

TEL AVIV – A drone recently penetrated Israel’s airspace from the Mediterranean. It was allowed to fly for about half an hour over southern Israel before being shot down by the Israeli air force over a sparsely populated area. It is still not known who dispatched the drone and from where, but it is now assumed that it was launched from Lebanon, either by Hezbollah, acting in Iran’s service, or by forces of the Iranian regime itself.

If that is indeed the case, the episode should not be regarded as yet another incident in a region fraught by conflict and violence. On the contrary, it is a significant window into the arena in which the conflict over the future of Iran’s nuclear program is being waged.

Several developments and forces are now shaping this arena. One is Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision, announced in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, to suspend his threat to launch unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear installations. He has said that Israel will give the US and the rest of the international community an opportunity to stop Iran’s progress through other means by the spring or early summer of 2013.

Categories
Intelligence Government

Occupy Eyes the Drones

In Front of the Left Forum
In front of the Left Forum. Photo: World Can’t Wait/flickr.

A hallmark of U.S. President Obama’s foreign policy has been a scaling down of troop presences in conflict areas, but without scaling down efforts in the War on Terror. Obama has pursued this as vigorously as his predecessor, but he has more strategically come to rely on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)–commonly referred to as drones–to target individual terrorists and terrorist camps.

From the beginning of this program, some groups have expressed concerns over the civil liberty implications of the use of UAVs. Privacy concerns, since UAVs are largely used in reconnaissance, were forefront in the minds of activists–until Anwar al-Awlaki.

Categories
Security Foreign policy Conflict Defense

Suicide-Bombs Without the Suicides: Why Drones Are So Cool

The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle
The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. Photo: JimNtexas/flickr.

The final years of the cold war in the 1970s-1980s were dominated by nuclear issues, including the nuclear arms-race, Trident, the Soviet SS-20 missile and the cruise-missiles deployed at Greenham Common and elsewhere. Within that controversial period there were some remarkable technical developments that have a huge relevance decades later, one of them being the long-range cruise-missile itself.

Many of these were nuclear-armed, but even more were conventionally-armed. A great number was used in the attacks of January-February 1991 againstthe Iraqi forces that had occupied Kuwait. The crucial element was the production of small, super-efficient turbo-fan engines that could propel the craft over 1,500 kilometres or more. These also had advanced-guidance systems, including Tercom (terrain-contour-matching) that enabled remarkable accuracy of less than twenty metres over that range. They were, however, self-contained – their pre-programmed onboard computers did all the work, so the target coordinates could not be changed after launch.

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International Relations

Drones in Our World, Part IV: Adapting a Warfighter


Current and Future Capabilities of UAVs in International Humanitarian Interventions

Aerial surveillance and remote sensing are nothing new in the world of combat reconnaissance, but they are new tools in the arsenal of the humanitarian relief and development communities. And they are rapidly evolving. Complex, disaster, and rapidly evolving environments all require the capability to promptly collect, analyze, and disseminate critical information that UAVs can gather and exploit in ways and quantities that other resources cannot rival.

Away, but not apart, from wars

In addition to the myriad uses of UAVs in combat environments—including non-kinetic roles—discussed in the previous installation of this series, UAVs can also serve as neutral observers for ceasefire monitoring or other peacekeeping missions.

Unlike data reported by humans, the information collected and conveyed by drones is inherently neutral. When information is delivered based upon objective rather than subjective collection practices, it is easier to make more accurate assessments of issues. The state of affairs depicted in the raw imagery and the resulting analytical products are based on factual observations and serve as a force multiplier and verifier of human-collected information or verbal reports.

Categories
Technology Human Rights Justice

Drones for the ICC and Drones for Human Rights?

US Air Force General Atomics MQ-1 Predator Unmaned Aerial Vehicle. Photo: James Gordon/flickr

A recent thought-provoking and provocative op-ed in the New York Times has presented a serious challenge to those who view drones as nothing more than the evil extensions of secretive warfare. According to Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis, “[i]t’s time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy.”