by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 11, Safar, 1433)
American hubris is predicated primarily on its claim to technological superiority. This is best reflected in the radar-evading stealth technology used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) called drones. To be sure, these are deadly weapons.
American hubris is predicated primarily on its claim to technological superiority. This is best reflected in the radar-evading stealth technology used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) called drones. To be sure, these are deadly weapons. Ask the Pakistanis, Yemenis and the Somalis — principal victims of its lethal wares. American operators sitting thousands of miles away manipulate them to unleash missiles, incinerating people with the push of a button. This video-game type of warfare has exacted a heavy toll in human life.
The US has not only deployed a vast array of UAVs in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also against Islamic Iran. In the latter case, these are used to spy on Iran’s military and nuclear installations by intruding into its airspace in clear violation of international law as well as an agreement signed with Iran in January 1981. But American rulers — military and civilian — have never been constrained by legal niceties. Rules are for others; America does what it likes and people must get used to it.
Americans had become so intoxicated on the prowess of their drone technology that they thought it was impossible to detect much less bring down. This is nothing new; throughout history bullies have relied on superior weapons. Goliath tried to intimidate opponents by his massive size and body amour until David (a) knocked him out with a slingshot. Abraha’s elephant was driven back by pebble-carrying birds before it could destroy the Ka‘bah; Hizbullah knocked out Israel’s Merkava tanks with shoulder-held missiles in 2006 and now Islamic Iran has brought down a US drone by overriding its computer controls.
On December 4, when Iran’s military commanders announced they had brought down the RQ-170 Sentinel, one of the most sophisticated aircraft in the US drone fleet, it generated global excitement. American officials have not denied deploying a fleet of aircraft against Iran to carry out surveillance of its military and nuclear installations. This is an act of war and if any law governed the world, American rulers would be tried as war criminals. But there is only one law operable today: that of the jungle where might makes right. It is revealing that instead of apologizing for violating Iran’s airspace, US President Barack Obama had the gall to demand Tehran return the drone!
In the war against Islamic Iran, going on for more than 30 years now, successive US regimes have used numerous weapons from terror bombing campaigns, assassination of its top leaders, to war unleashed through Iraq. All these have failed to destroy the Islamic system. In recent years, several Iranian scientists have been assassinated in what is clearly a US-Israeli-British-sponsored campaign. Mujahideen-e Khalq and Jundullah (proxy) terrorists may have pulled the trigger but the forces behind these evil acts are unmistakable. American officials have publicly admitted boosting sales of bunker-busting munitions, fighter jets and other military hardware to Persian Gulf states as well as to Zionist Israel, in attempts to undermine Islamic Iran. The US and its European allies have also imposed stiff sanctions against Tehran to bring it to its knees by crippling it economically, so far unsuccessfully.
But we must return to the story of Iran’s downing of the much-vaunted US drone. Initially, American officials said the drone had malfunctioned and its controllers lost contact. If this were so, the drone’s electronic system would have automatically destroyed the aircraft. It was blind faith in the superiority of their technology that the Americans initially dismissed Iranian claims of bringing down the plane through cyber attack. Iranian specialists captured the drone by exploiting what they knew was its weakest point. They hacked into its GPS system and re-configured its coordinates to make it land at a chosen location of their choice. This was made possible when Iranian electronic warfare specialists, using knowledge of the drone’s GPS system acquired from studying previously downed drones — also claimed by Iranian officials and equally strenuously denied by the Americans — developed a technique that allowed them to cut off the drone’s communications links before reprogramming its GPS to make it land. The fact that the drone was recovered in almost perfect condition has confirmed Iranian claims. “The GPS navigation is the weakest point. By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain,” said an Iranian engineer, a member of the specialists’ team that brought down the drone.
Iran’s electronic specialists then used a “spoofing” technique which took into “account precise landing altitudes as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data” and caused the drone to “…land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications.” Once the “bird loses its brain”, reprogramming it to land at another location is a simple process, according to Iranian specialists.
When the drone was shown on Iranian television in near-perfect condition, it sent the Pentagon and the entire military top brass into panic. How could people living under stiff sanctions and denied any “Western technology” for decades manage to achieve such a feat, they asked themselves. This is where the Muslims’ reliance on Allah (swt) comes into play. When the US imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic in 1980, Imam Khomeini had said this was a blessing in disguise. This provided an opportunity for the country to break out of the dependency cycle that has stymied the development and growth of other countries in the world. Iran’s development of cyber capabilities is the direct result of the liberation of the mind from dependency on others and the self-confidence that comes with reliance only on Allah (swt).
True, US sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy but its ability to stand on its feet brings immense satisfaction. The US and its allies would do well to realize that Islamic Iran has development capabilities far beyond the West’s wildest imagination. They must learn to live with this reality or be prepared for many more surprises.