From the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia to the crowded neighborhoods of Beirut, a drone war has taken flight across the wider Middle East, raising the stakes in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Since the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year, there has been an increasing tempo of attacks and alleged threats, notably this weekend, from unmanned aircraft flown by Tehran’s and Washington’s allies in the region.
The appeal of the aircraft — they risk no pilots and can be small enough to evade air-defense systems — fueled their rapid use amid the maximum pressure campaigns of Iran and the U.S. As these strikes become more frequent, the risk of unwanted escalation becomes greater.
The U.S. military nearly launched airstrikes against Iran after a U.S. military surveillance drone was shot down in June. Meanwhile, Israeli fighter jets attack targets in Syria on an almost weekly basis, including on Saturday night. Israel’s reason for the latest bombing: To thwart what it called a planned Iranian drone strike.