The Iranian government is crowing that they have shot down and seized an American stealthy drone. It is, from the published pictures, an RQ-170, a B-2 look-alike that was probably developed in a "black" program and still highly classified. (Black programs are so highly classified that no one admits they exist. Well, no one who is not a Democratic senator, as Durbin, Rockefeller, and Wyden did a few years ago on a black satellite program. (My column from about Dec 04 on "Don't Play 'Misty' for Me" revealed what those three sluggos did.)
Was it shot down? What did we do about it, and why didn't we do more?
From the photos we've seen, it's highly unlikely that the Iranians brought it down with a kinetic weapon. If it had been shot down, it'd be heavily damaged. What the Iranians are publishing looks like a drone that is damaged very little, if at all. The likelihood is that the guidance/control systems malfunctioned and the aircraft landed softly on some Iranian runway. Otherwise, some Iranian version of Spiderman caught it in his webbing.
What was the drone doing over Iran? It was -- as the Obama administration bizarrely disclosed -- on a CIA mission conducting some of espionage and/or surveillance. (I say bizarrely because no one in his right mind would say anything about the mission. If we were to admit it's ours, which seems pretty obvious, we should have said that it was lost on a training mission over someplace or other. Admitting it was CIA operated is more than anyone needs to know).
So what happened? I can only guess. Systems such as RQ-170 are usually outfitted with several layers of redundant protections. For example, if I had been the designer, any time we lost contact or control, the RQ-170 should have -- after a short period -- burned up or (by an embedded computer virus) destroyed all of its sensors, controls, and communications systems. It should have -- automatically -- left whoever would be the finder with nothing more than a pile of plastic and metal junk from which they could learn little. Same thing if the drone had crashed or been shot down.
To do more should not have been necessary. However, if -- as it appears -- the aircraft was recovered with its flight systems intact, we should have been able, if we acted quickly, to nail it with a Tomahawk missile. Sending people in to get it would be the last resort, and unless we were prepared to back that mission with a full-scale attack on anything that interfered, we'd just be throwing away some lives that were a whole lot more valuable than the aforementioned plastic and steel junk. I'm sure the Obama team dithered until action was too late.
The whole incident illustrates the muddle our Iran policy is under Obama. He's against more sanctions, but willing to risk strategic assets to do reconnaissance. He's thrown Israel to the wolves and claims Iran is more isolated than ever. But Iran is so isolated, it may as well have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. There's no sanity, far less strategy, in all this.
I am reminded of a special report by Pete Hoekstra and his staff in about 2006 when he was ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Pete and his guys said, bluntly, that we lacked sufficient information on what Iran was doing to form the basis of any sensible policy. I know -- from many other sources in the intel community -- that it isn't any better now than it was when that special report came out.
The loss of the drone -- and the disclosure of the CIA's involvement -- may give some people the impression that we are, indeed, doing better. Frankly, given what we see in everything else in the Obama approach to Islamic terrorist states and Iran especially, I'd bet the ranch that this is all show and nothing more.
Well, nothing more than another embarrassment to us that makes the Iranians appear stronger than they really are.
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