Jun 23, 2021 - World

Scoop: U.S. and Israel huddle on drone threat from Iran

iranian Army drones on display in January. Photo: Iranian Army via Getty

The Biden administration and the Israeli government held talks recently on countering the proliferation of Iranian drones and cruise missiles among its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: After several drone attacks from pro-Iranian militias in recent weeks, some of which were thwarted, the U.S. and Israel are highly concerned that the technology will spread to additional groups who could target their forces in the region.

Driving the news: Al Asad Airbase, where most U.S. troops in Iraq are stationed, has been attacked repeatedly by pro-Iranian Shia militias. A hangar was damaged in a drone attack on May 8, and two armed drones were shot down there on June 6.

  • The Israeli air force, meanwhile, shot down an armed Iranian drone that was trying to enter Israeli airspace during the Gaza crisis on May 18.

Behind the scenes: During a meeting in Washington on April 27, national security advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, agreed to establish an inter-agency working group to focus on unmanned aerial vehicles and precision-guided missiles produced by Iran and provided to its regional proxies.

  • The group's first meeting took place three weeks ago, with the U.S. side headed by White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and the Israeli side led by deputy national security adviser Reuven Azar.
  • The Israeli delegation proposed a regional cooperation framework involving Arab countries who face a similar threat from Iranian drones and missiles.
  • The Israeli side also proposed a no-fly zone for Iranian-made drones in the region, per Israeli officials briefed on the meeting. It's not clear how that would work.

What’s next: Israeli officials say their impression is that the working group will continue meeting because the Biden administration sees the drone threat to U.S. forces in the region as a high priority and worries that as the technology spreads the danger will only grow more severe.

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