Iran’s Militias Intensify Deadly Drone Warfare: An Analysis

Iran has been increasingly exporting drones to its proxies throughout the Middle East over the last decade, and the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) play a role in Iran’s policies and attacks by its proxies. The drone threat is now taken seriously across the region. However, Iran continues to try to improve the precision and deadly effectiveness of its drones. The attack on US forces in Jordan, in which three were killed and dozens injured, is one example of the drone threat.

Iran’s drones now threaten Israel, the US, and many partner countries across thousands of miles of frontline. Iran’s proxies have become terror armies with drones, giving them a larger area they can threaten. Unlike rockets, drones can fly a more complex flight path and can be more precise. Hezbollah, for instance, has thousands of drones and has already used dozens in attacks on Israel.

Iranian-backed militias in Syria also have drones and have been using them since at least 2017. Iran has targeted Israel with drones flown from Iran and Iraq. These threats increased over the last several years. During the 2021 war between Israel and Hamas, Iranian-backed groups in Iraq tried to target Israel with a drone. Iran also sent a “killer drone” team to an area near the Golan in 2019 and supplied the Houthis in Yemen with drones in January 2021.

Increased use of drones against US forces by Iranian proxies

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have increasingly used drones against US forces and to target Kurdish dissidents. The drones are more effective than using rockets and have been used to target US forces in Tanf in Syria near the Jordanian border and in Jordan itself. Iranian proxies have claimed credit for these attacks, even though Iran denies involvement.

Al-Mayadeen media, which is pro-Iran, has claimed that the drones used to attack US forces were able to penetrate modern air defense systems. It is difficult to confirm these claims, but the fact that pro-Iran media is making them shows that they want the claims to be true. This means that Iran is seeking to improve the capabilities of its drones, which have been used throughout the region for almost ten years.