Hezbollah today took credit for the drone which penetrated 35 miles into Israeli airspace last week and came with 18 miles of overflying Israel’s top-secret Dimona nuclear weapons facility before being shot down. It said the drone had been produced in Iran and launched by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. Much of this had been surmised and reported here and elsewhere.
The IDF appears to have been caught with its pants down and admitted it had only tracked the craft for the last 20 minutes of its flight. Apparently, it hadn’t a clue that it had been launched, despite the fact that the IAF patrols Lebanese skies at will and searches earnestly for any Hezbollah weapons caches or missile depots.
Though the drone appears to have been designed for reconnaissance rather than attack, it’s clear that this capability is coming, if it hasn’t arrived already. Recently for example, Iran announced it had developed a drone with 2,000 km range capable of reaching Israel.
In response to these attacks, defense secretary Leon Panetta inveighed about a potential cyber Pearl Harbor or 9/11. He warned that the U.S. was preparing its own offensive cyber capability that would turn the networks of any enemy foolish enough to attack us into a total mess.
The righteous indignation would be more credible if Panetta at least acknowledged that we were first to attack Iran’s nuclear plant at Natanz, destroying 20% of their uranium enrichment capacity. We too attacked Iran’s oil terminals and infrastructure with our own cyber-attacks.
It is part of a damaging U.S. exceptionalism that crimes of our own are morally expedient and justifiable, while crimes of our enemy violate all norms of human conduct. We executed Nazi war criminals while holding ourselves harmless from dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden. Clearly there’s one set of laws for the victors and another entirely for the vanquished.
Israel murders five senior Iranian nuclear scientists with the help of U.S.-trained MEK terrorists. Yet we display high moral dudgeon when a dubious Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington is exposed.
We just announced a ballyhooed cyber-war program, Plan X, on which we will spend $110-million over five years in yet another defense industry boondoggle. This project will create new offensive cyber-weapons with which we can assault the world and our enemies. Yet somehow we lose sight of the fact that we have no monopoly on such technological skills. Iran, while not as rich a nation as the U.S., has just as much will and ambition to fight back against the threat we pose. Will it take a weapon as sophisticated as what we can produce to attack Israel or the U.S. and cause massive amounts of damage? Can we say that day won’t come if we continue down this path?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.