When Israel examined the Syrian/Hezbollah drone they shot down, they were in for a big surprise. The Israeli military discovered that the drone — the enemy drone — was using Israeli technology.
Then again, when you deal with untrustworthy parties one should expect contract violations like the handing over of your secret technology to your enemy.
In this particular case it seems clear that Israel gave their technology secrets to the Russians and the Russians gave Israel's top secret drone technology and material to the Syrians and Hezbollah. And now it is being used against Israel.
It happens more often than we know. And it's happening right now, for example, between the United States and Turkey. Illicit transfer of information is the most critical reason explaining current tension between these two countries. The United States is upset with Turkey because the Erdogan government is engaged in weapons deals with Russia and, specifically, because Turkey has received the surface-to-air S-400 missile.
The common thread in these two situations, Israel and Hezbollah and the United States and Turkey, is, of course, Russia. The Russians are masterful at manipulating, intimidating, and influencing others in order to gain an advantage in the arms game.
The Syrian/Hezbollah drone was shot down in August of last year. The story just broke in The Intercept website, one of the most important military sites on the internet.
Here's the back story. In 2010, Russia was in a cross-border conflict with one of its former states, Georgia. Israel had sold Georgia drone technology and Georgia was using their drones to monitor Russian movements.
Russia shot down one of the drones and discovered that it was Israeli made and they were, diplomatically speaking, livid and made all kinds of threatening noises. All was resolved when Israel agreed to sell Russia those same drones for $400 million. In exchange, Russia agreed to suspend their sale of the S-300 to Syria and Iran. (The S-300 is an older version of the S-400.)
The original name of this sought after Israeli drone was IAI Searcher (IAI stands for Israel Aircraft industries) The Searcher was developed in two versions. Version one was named "Meyromit" which translates to "Marsh-Tern" which is a swallow-like bird. The second version is named "Chugla" or "Alectoris" which is like a quail. It is not a small drone. Its dimensions are a 28-foot wingspan, a 19-foot length, and 4 feet in height.
After receiving the drone, the Russians renamed it "Forpost" which means "searcher."
These drones are very different from the U.S. Reaper or Predator. The U.S. drones are attack drones. These drones simply gather material and intel. They can stay in position for hours monitoring and watching their target.
In 2015 Israel signed a deal to sell drones to the Ukraine and then the Russians stepped in. Russia was locked in conflict with the Ukraine. Russia leaned on Israel and Israel pulled out of the deal. In exchange, Russia bought more drones from Israel.
Now the issue gets touchy.
What do you do when your technology ends up in your enemy's hands and you have unequivocal proof because you are the one who shot it down?
Russia claims that they did not give the technology to either Syria or Hezbollah. Rather, they explain, they gave over the information reaped from the drones. When delivering info and intel, Russia has the ability to edit and select what and which intel is worthwhile to convey. Israel isn't buying the Russian excuse. They believe that Russia is lying and they have the proof to support their claim.
Now Israel and Russia are dancing a very delicate ballet dedicated to avoiding direct conflict. A special line of communication has been established to draw down tensions and make certain that they do not go head to head.
Russia cannot afford a direct dogfight with Israel. Russia's reputation is the region is that of a military force policing, harnessing, and keeping everyone in check. Given the drone complication, that reputation is at stake. If Russia were to lose a dogfight with Israel it would elevate Israel's reputation in the region exponentially and destroy Russia's standing as the preeminent force in the world.
This drone was shot down, parenthetically, by a patriot missile — the defense missile supplied to Israel by the United States. It was the second time a drone like this was spotted. Israel allowed the first drone to safely return to its home base so that they could watch where it went and figure out to whom it belonged.
This incident will not stop Israel from selling weapons and information. Israel's creative technologies are for sale and this sector is a very important part of Israel's defense and economy. The problem is that some of the biggest buyers in the world market are not, to put it politely, trustworthy.
Israel must be aggressive with Russia. But they must be aggressive diplomatically and behind closed doors. Like most countries, Israel needs Russia. But this time Russia got caught. They overstepped and perpetrated a major violation that clearly endangers Israel's safety.
Russia is a very dangerous and a very powerful force.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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