China's cheaper armed drones now flying across Mideast battlefields

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – High above Yemen's rebel-held city of Hodeida, a drone controlled by Emirati forces hovered as an SUV carrying a top Shiite Houthi rebel official turned onto a small street and stopped, waiting for another vehicle in its convoy to catch up. Seconds later, the SUV exploded in flames, killing Saleh al-Samad, a top political figure. The drone that fired that missile in April was not one of the many American aircraft that have been buzzing across the skies of Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Across the Middle East, countries locked out of purchasing U.S.-made drones due to rules over excessive civilian casualties are being wooed by Chinese arms dealers, the world's main distributor of armed drones. "The Chinese product now doesn't lack technology, it only lacks market share," said Song Zhongping, a Chinese military analyst and former lecturer at the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force University of Engineering.


U.S. Navy reports another close call with Iran drone

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – An unarmed Iranian drone shadowed a U.S. aircraft carrier at night and came close enough to F-18 fighter jets to put the lives of American pilots at risk, the Navy said Tuesday, reporting the second such tense encounter within a week. The Iranian Sadegh drone flew without any warning lights during the encounter Sunday night with the USS Nimitz, said Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The drone did not respond to repeated calls over the radio and came within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of U.S. fighters, he said. That "created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws," McConnaughey said in a statement. The drone was unarmed, the lieutenant said, though that model can carry missiles.


In UAE, Trump's adviser warns Iran of 'very strong response' to any attack

The Japan Times

ABU DHABI - President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned Iran on Wednesday that any attacks in the Persian Gulf will draw a "very strong response" from the U.S., taking a hard-line approach with Tehran after his boss only two days earlier said America wasn't "looking to hurt Iran at all." John Bolton's comments are the latest amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that have been playing out in the Middle East. Bolton spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which only days earlier saw former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warn there that "unilateralism will not work" in confronting the Islamic Republic. The dueling approaches highlight the divide over Iran within American politics. The U.S. has accused Tehran of being behind a string of incidents this month, including the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the Emirati coast, a rocket strike near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and a coordinated drone attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels. On Wednesday, Bolton told journalists that there had been a previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil port of Yanbu as well, which he also blamed on Iran.


Pentagon probing civilian casualties in Yemen raid, denies navy firing on al-Qaida; HRW demands redress

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON/SANAA/DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The U.S. military said Thursday it is investigating last weekend's raid by U.S. special operations forces in Yemen and that innocent civilians, including children, were apparently killed. U.S. Central Command said civilians may have been hit by gunfire from aircraft called in to assist U.S. troops, who engaged in a ferocious firefight with militants from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's Yemen affiliate. The military said the civilians may not have been visible to the U.S. forces because they were mixed in with combatants who were firing at U.S. troops "from all sides to include houses and other buildings." Nasser al-Awlaki told The Associated Press that among the children killed was his 8-year-old granddaughter Anwaar, an American citizen. Her father was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Yemeni-American cleric killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen in 2011.


Iranian hard-liners release video showing detained American

FOX News

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Hard-liners in Iran have released a video showing a detained Iranian-American businessman for the first time since his arrest last October. The minute-long video, posted Monday by Iran's judiciary news agency, shows Siamak Namazi amid a montage of clips, including an Iranian drone flying over a U.S. aircraft carrier and American sailors on their knees being detained in January. The video has no audio other than what sounds like a dramatic film score. It shows Namazi's U.S. passport, a United Arab Emirates ID card and a clip of him in a conference room, his arms raised at his sides. Namazi is a son of Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF representative who once served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah.