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    Middle East
     Dec 6, 2012

I love the sound of a drone in the morning
By Pepe Escobar

It may not have been a deadly Predator equipped with a Hellfire missile eager to incinerate a Pashtun wedding party, but in our Brave New UAV World - also known as Obama's Drone Wars - even a lowly ScanEagle, manufactured by a Boeing subsidiary, may be assured to steal the limelight.

So here's the star of the show on Iranian TV after it was captured over the Persian Gulf. Geopolitical junkies fed up with the same old US generals regurgitating cliches on Fox or CNN will certainly feast on that ultra-retro "We will trample the US under our feet" banner, not to mention the quirky Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) production values in the PR front.

Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the IRGC's navy, said the


ScanEagle was "hunted" and then "forced" to "land electronically" after invading Iran's airspace. Well, it may have been slightly more complicated. The always delightful Moon of Alabama still provides the best explanation: the IRGC probably electronically disabled the drone's satellite link and then took over its line-of-sight radio control.

Apart from providing endless puns of the "Persian cats take down US drone" kind - complete with photos of cats messing around with model made-in-Iran copies of RQ-170s (that's the drone downed in Iran a year ago) - this is almost as good as the new Bob Woodward scoop on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News lieutenants trying to buy General Petraeus into becoming Murdoch's personal US presidential candidate. Foxy General, anyone?

Foxy General, by the way - even before he got "physical" with adoring groupie Paula Broadwell - would never be caught in a such a debasing predicament. His Central Intelligence Agency drones in AfPak were and remain bona-fide killing machines, not lowly gadgets gathering useless intel.

This new Drone War installment at least provides a measure of Monty Pythonesque respite from the usual doom and gloom - as in Turkey getting approval from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles to "defend itself" from some stray Syrian firecracker daring to cross the border.

NATO bureaucrats in Brussels are already in overdrive spinning to oblivion the official denial along the lines of "Oh no, we don't want a no-fly zone over Syria - it's just that we love big, bad, bulging missiles."

The US - as usual, as always - denies everything regarding the missing ScanEagle, as in a spokesman for the US Naval Forces Central Command in that sublime paragon of democracy, Bahrain, stressing, "The US Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles (UAV) operating in the Middle East region."

Maybe it's a terminology problem; Iran is actually in Southwest Asia (so lost drones in a "pivoting" area don't count). But wait; it gets better. The spokesman also said, "We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently." So the Navy lost not only a drone but also the records.

Thus the Navy's frantic efforts to apportion blame to other people's drones. Maybe this ScanEagle was from that other GCC-enabled democratic paradise, the United Arab Emirates. Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and even Colombia all have ScanEagles. Britain and France also manufacture drones, and Russia is on its way. Or maybe an evil Eye-ranian spy stole it on a shopping trip to Dubai.

Meanwhile, expect an upcoming boom of plastic ScanEagle miniatures refreshing the depressed, sanctioned-to-death Iranian market, just as it happened a year ago with the RQ-170. Live Persian cats from Qom to the Caspian Sea will certainly have a ball taking them all down.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

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The life and death of American drones (Dec 22, '11)

The Dead Drone sketch (Dec 09, '11)



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