Who would want us to think Iran crashed a drone in Israel?

Richard Silverstein reports on his blog that the aircraft that crashed in central Israel today was a “booby-trapped” foreign drone flown into the country, and that it crashed not in a field, but in a top-secret missile base (which I am not naming it here because I’m not entirely sure about my position vis-a-vis Israel’s military censors on this bit). Richard goes on to speculate the only enemy of Israel’s that can conceivably produce an aircraft such as this one is Iran, but that it’s unlikely Iran could control a drone from so far away, so it must’ve been Hezbollah, flying the drone 1,000 miles 160km* into Israeli airspace and right at one of Israel’s most sensitive military bases.

Richard attributes the information on the location and nature of the crash to  a ” confidential highly-placed Israeli source.” He places considerable weight on the fact no drones are known to be operating from said missile base, and implies this strengthens the suspicion the drone must be a foreign one.

There are several problems to this story.  According to current news reports, what crashed was Israel’s largest drone, known as “Eitan”. The drone took off from the Tel Nof airbase and crashed between kibbutz Hafetz Haim and the town of Gedera, some ten miles away from the missile base in question, but only two miles from Tel Nof. Two miles and a malfunctioning Israeli drone seem more plausible than 1,000 miles and an ultra-sophisticated enemy aircraft to me, especially as Richard’s source provides no proof whatsoever the aircraft crashed in some location other than the one reported in the media. Ever since the Night of the Gliders, Israel has been supremely paranoid about its airspace, with jets scrambling every time an unidentified aircraft comes within a few dozen miles of our borders (you can find several incidents from the past year alone).  A few days ago they nearly scrambled to attack a particularly large flock of birds. The idea a foreign aircraft can go in and fly 1,000 miles 160km in broad daylight without detection and crash into one of Israel’s most sensitive military bases is bizarre – to say the least.

Richard also notes in his post that “the “beauty” (if such a phrase is appropriate) of a drone attack is that, like the Mossad assassination of nuclear scientists, it’s hard to figure out precisely who is to blame. In that sense, it raises the temperature, but does so in a carefully calibrated way.” Wrong. Drones are such complex and still reasonably rare machines it would actually be extremely easy to identify where one comes from. It doesn’t seem likely Iran built a perfect imitation Israeli drone, gave it to Hezbollah to fly it into Israel, only to have it crashed without causing any real damage.

Finally, eyewitnesses described seeing a typically dual-tailed drone clearly in distress with one wing bursting into flame shortly before impact – not exactly the behaviour of a kamikaze aircraft, manned or unmanned.

But the real question is: who would have us believe this highly improbable hypothesis is true? Iran is mostly trying to avoid escalation. Why it would to give Israel a perfect casus belli by launching such a blatant military attack, which causes no significant damage, is beyond me; but I can well imagine plenty of people within the IDF who would dearly like a casus belli to bolster their case for an attack on Iran. If I were Richard, I would be extremely suspicious of any information – especially uncorroborated information – that helps the pro-war camp in Israel. Not to mention that the source might be acting in good faith, but is being hoodwinked by his own sources within the system.

Richard has provided some of the more important exposes about top-secret development in Israel over the past two years, relying to quite a strong degree on his own faith in the integrity of his sources. Sometimes it’s all you have to go by. But  if his source is who he says he is, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that someone in the Israeli establishment appears to have been  tempted to use Richard’s blog as the perfect channel for a bit of psy-ops.


*Correction 31/01 – I misread this particular detail in Richard’s post; and  I should’ve realised as i typed the distance from our northern border to the crash site is 160kms at most. Silly me. But it’s little more than a typo that doesn’t in the least affect the implausibility of Richard’s source’s story. Hezbollah would still need to fly an aircraft through most of populated Israel undetected, which doesn’t make any sense, and then crash it, which makes even less sense.