The Iranian media played up the presentation Tuesday, Oct. 22, of a copy of the US-made ScanEagle by Iran’s air force chief Farzad Esmayeeli to Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, visiting Russian air force chief. Both used the ceremony to celebrate “Iran’s success in reverse-engineering and mass-producing" the American unmanned low-altitude reconnaissance drone, which it claimed to have captured in Dec. 2012.
The Russian air force commander examined the ScanEagle and admired the handiwork of the Iranian aeronautical engineers who he said had even upgraded the ScanEagle’s capabilities.
debkafile: This incident will go down was one of the biggest military intelligence frauds ever perpetrated before a battery of video cameras for world publication, because it was no more than a red herring to conceal a secret handover not long before. A far more valuable gift was quietly handed to the Russian general earlier at the same Khatam al-Anbiya air base. It was a replica complete with secret technology of a prize long coveted by Moscow: America’s most secret drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel captured by Iran on a CIA mission a year earlier on Dec. 13, 2011, and prized for its unique UAV stealth technology and intelligence-gathering devices linked to military satellites.
Tehran has claimed more than once that its engineers had succeeded in replicating and reusing Sentinel technology in its own drones. Since this drone was not actually downed by the Iranians, but by the Chinese cyber warfare experts assisting them, Moscow has always suspected that the Chinese were allowed to examine and copy its secrets.
Moscow therefore pressed Tehran for a close-up examination of this high-value drone and was refused until now.
According to Tehran, some of the RQ-170’s devices were implanted and tested in the drone which the Lebanese Hizballah sent over Israel on Oct. 6, 2012 and which evaded detection by Israeli radar for more than an hour. Before it was discovered and downed, the Iranian UAV flew over strategic Israeli locations including the Dimona nuclear reactor.
debkafile’s military sources report that, even though the real prize was concealed, the fact of Iran’s ceremonial presentation to a Russian general of a copycatted high-tech American drone, and its formal acceptance by the Russian in a videotaped ceremony at an Iranian military base, was a calculated dual snub for the United States and the Obama administration. Both parties showed they were unconcerned about US payback. They were saying, furthermore, that if the Americans give Iran a hard time in the negotiations for curbing its nuclear program, Russia will take Iran’s part and their cooperation may take military form.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources point to three aspects of the burgeoning Russian-Iranian military friendship:
1. Washington has refrained from response. The Obama administration has apparently resolved to let Russian-Iranian military cooperation pass without demur, even at the cost of damaging US military and intelligence interests, to avoid upsetting the partnership between the two presidents, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, in tackling Iranian nuclear negotiations and diplomacy for ending the Syrian conflict.
2. President Obama has already paid for this partnership twice. Saudi Arabia, one of America's closest and oldest Middle East allies, has signaled its withdrawal from Washington’s course in the region and anger with US cooperation with Moscow and Tehran.
Israel too is preparing for unilateral action which may conflict with current US policy. Israel and Saudi Arabia may even find some rewards in working together.
3. The most obvious question now is what makes Russia and Iran so proud? In the end, all they have achieved is to pass from hand to hand sophisticated American military technology, stolen and copycatted because it is beyond both their capacities to produce on their own.