Israel Identifies Two Iranian Drone Bases Used to Strike Shipping

Suspected attack drone base at Qeshm, Iran (Israeli Ministry of Defense)

Published Nov 23, 2021 7:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

Israel's defense ministry has identified two drone bases in southern Iran which have allegedly been used to launch armed drones against maritime targets in the Gulf of Oman. 

"I reveal to you two central bases in the area of Chabahar and Qeshm island in south Iran, from which operations in the maritime arena were launched, and where today, too, advanced Shahed attack drones are deployed," said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at an online defense conference. “I want to stress to you that unmanned aerial vehicles are a precision weapon, which can reach strategic targets throughout the world. Most of the drone attacks that we’ve seen so far have been from southern and southeastern Iran against targets at sea."

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that an Iranian attack drone was responsible for the strike on the tanker Mercer Street in July 2021, which resulted in the deaths of two crewmembers. At least two more explosive attacks against Israeli-linked shipping have occurred over the course of 2021 - part of a years-long, tit-for-tat "shadow war" between Israel and Iran in the Middle East. 

Gantz made the case that Iran's drone weapons program was a regional threat, and not only for Israeli assets. “We have seen the attack on Aramco, the launching of drones from Syria, the attempts by Iran to build capabilities for Hezbollah to precisely launch explosive drones at Israel,” he said. 

Gantz also claimed that Iranian forces had attempted to deliver explosives to militant groups in Palestine's West Bank using a drone aircraft launched in Syria. Israel shot down the Shahed141 drone before it could reach its destination, he said. "Iran doesn't just use UAVs to attack, but also to transfer weaponry to its proxies," Gantz said. 

Gantz has previously warned that Iran is using a third base near the city of Kashan to train proxy forces. “Iran is training militias from Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria to employ advanced UAVs," he said in September. 

The revelations are viewed as part of Israel's efforts to pressure Iran ahead of multilateral talks on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Iran wants relief from U.S. sanctions in exchange for resuming a wind-down of its nuclear program. 

“For months now, Gantz has been presenting a roadmap for the international community to more aggressively target Tehran’s drone infrastructure - specifically highlighting UAV bases in Kashan, Chabahar, and Qeshm Island,” defense analyst Jason Brodsky of United Against Nuclear Iran told New York-based outlet The Algemeiner.