Empire strikes back: Did Pakistani intelligence tip off Iran to U.S. drone flight plan?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
By Paul Martin

December 14, 2011

IRAN – It’s the same drone believed to have been used in the covert CIA operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Was the U.S. operation compromised by ISI intelligence in Pakistan before it even began? Star Wars may have conceptualized the reconnaissance drone or droid but it may be U.S. bungling with these military automatons that may make them catalysts for the next World War. Iran exhibited the top-secret U.S. stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel captured on Sunday, Dec. 4. Its almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran’s claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush. This is a major debacle for the stealth technology the U.S. uses in its warplanes and the drone technology developed by the U.S. and Israel. The state of the lost UAV refutes the U.S. military contention that the Sentinel’s systems malfunctioned. If this had happened, it would have crashed and either been wrecked or damaged. The condition of the RQ-170 intact obliges the U.S. and Israel to make major changes in plans for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration’s decision after internal debate not to send U.S. commando or air units into Iran to retrieve or destroy the secret RQ-170 stealth drone which fell into Iranian hands has strengthened the hands of the Israeli faction which argues the case for striking Iran’s nuclear installations without waiting for the Americans to make their move. Senior Israeli diplomatic and security officials who followed the discussion in Washington concluded that, by failing to act, the administration has left Iran not only with the secrets of the Sentinel’s stealth coating, its sensors and cameras, but also with the data stored in its computer cells on targets marked out by the U.S. and/or Israeli for attack. Like every clandestine weapons system, the RQ-170 had a self-destruct mechanism to prevent its secrets spilling out to the enemy in the event of a crash or capture. This did not happen. Tehran was able to claim the spy drone was only slightly damaged when they downed it. The NATO spokesman claimed control was lost of the U.S. UAV and it went missing, a common occurrence for these unmanned aircraft. The enigmas surrounding its capture continue to pile up. How did Iran know the drone had entered its airspace? How was it caused to land? Most of all, why did the craft’s self-destruct mechanism which is programmed to activate automatically fail to work? And if it malfunctioned, why was it not activated by remote control? Thursday, Dec. 8, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that from Sunday, Dec. 4, when Tehran announced the stealth drone’s capture, the Obama administration weighed sending special commando forces into Iran from bases in Afghanistan to bring the downed aircraft back to Afghanistan or blow it up to destroy the almost intact secret systems – either by a sneak operation or by an air strike. In the end, the paper quoted a U.S. official as explaining that the attack option was ruled out “because of the potential it could become a larger incident.” If an assault team entered the country, the U.S. “could be accused of an act of war” by Tehran. –Debka

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