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In unveiling the ScanEagle to Iranian media, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s naval forces, Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi, said Iran’s ability to detect and bring down the drone demonstrated its “full intelligence supremacy” over the operations that targeted it.
But in other cases, the two sides appear to be content to let their actions speak for themselves.
No one has ever claimed the airstrikes that caused a major fire at an arms factory outside Khartoum, Sudan, this past October. But regional military experts assume the bombing was carried out by Israel, and for two reasons: one, to strike a suspected go-between for Iranian arms smuggling; and two, to send a message that Israel will not hesitate to use force against its enemies.
That message may have been destined for Iran, whose nuclear program Israel considers to be an existential threat.
Other unclaimed actions considered by intelligence experts to have been carried out in the course of the ongoing covert war range from the Stuxnet cyberworm, which destroyed a large number of Iran’s uranium-spinning centrifuges; to a cyberattack on Saudi oil facilities earlier this year, which reportedly destroyed thousands of computers. Mysterious explosions have struck Iranian nuclear facilities, while Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated.
Meanwhile, some intelligence analysts believe Iran was clearly signaling to its adversaries when its longtime partner in Lebanon, the militant organization Hezbollah, sent what experts say was an Iranian-supplied drone over Israeli airspace in October.
Israel shot down the drone, but not before Tehran got its message across, experts say: that Iran has the means to defend itself, and to retaliate, should its enemies decide to attack its nuclear facilities.