Twitter accounts associated with the militant group Islamic State are tweeting out pics of another wrecked Iranian-made drone in Iraq.
We know Iranian drones have been flying over Iraq for some time now. But the markings on this latest piece of wreckage raise questions about just whoowns the flying robots.
The tweets, which first appeared early Saturday morning, claim that Islamic State fighters shot down a drone near the city of Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad. The pictures show an Iranian Ababil-3 unmanned aerial vehicle in pieces, with what appear to be stickers of an Iraqi flag on its tail.
The implication is that the drone actually belongs to Iraq, even if Iran manufactured it.
Shortly after Mosul fell to Islamic State forces in June 2014, Iran began flying Ababil-3 UAVs out of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed air base in order to track the jihadists, according to The New York Times.
But the flags on the downed Ababil’s tail could indicate that Baghdad owns and operates the drones. Alternatively, the markings could be a cover—albeit a rather thin one—for Iranian forces deployed in Iraq to help Baghdad battle the militants.
Look, there’s no doubt that the UAV in the recent tweet is Iranian in origin. It bears all the hallmarks of an the Ababil-3, a product of Tehran’s Ghods Aviation Industry.
The twin tail boom and tricycle landing gear are distinctive, as is the serial number 3–2-R 148, which matches the format we’ve seen on other Ababil-3s.
As Iranian military analyst Galen Wright notes, the Ababil from Saturday morning may not be the first Iranian-made UAV to appear in Iraq with the latter’s flag attached. Islamic State published pictures of a Mohajer-4 which it claimed to have captured in July 2014, and featuring what appeared to be Iraqi flag stickers.