Iran drone operations in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq have received a lot of attention over the past eight years, and recently with the Iran-backed Houthi militia upgrading its drone capability and attacking Arab Gulf targets with improved range and precision.
But Iran’s drone operations in Pakistan are little known. Not much public information exists about them. Iranian officials never talk about it, and Pakistani officials normally avoid speaking on the record on Iran-related issues. The only two prominent exceptions on information on Iranian border violations coming from Pakistani officials are likely the April 20, 2019 statement by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the demarche submitted to Iran, in which Islamabad protested an unusual covert operation where Iran-based attackers killed — execution-style — 14 Pakistani Navy and Air Force soldiers deep inside Pakistani territory. And then there is the famous incident, in March 2016, of Pakistan confronting visiting President Hassan Rouhani on India’s spy operations using Iranian facilities.
But Pakistan did something else, quietly, that must have startled the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC specifically. The IRGC, and not the Iranian Armed Forces, operate drones across the region, from Lebanon to Yemen to Pakistan.
In June 2017, Pakistan Air Force scrambled a fighter jet that shot down an IRGC-operated drone over Balochistan. I broke the story in my exclusive report for Daily Pakistan Global. A month later, MEMO, the Middle East Monitor service, based in London and focused mostly on Israel and Palestine, ran an interesting analysis piece based on my story titled, Why are Iran’s drones crossing into Pakistani airspace?.
Iran is not reported to have sent drones into Pakistan after 2017, though the two countries faced other types of tensions on their shared border.
As news stories in the Gulf and Middle East focus on drone attacks and oil tanker operations, this is a good time to share this report that highlights an oft-overlooked aspect of Iran’s tensions with Pakistan.