By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s new book reveals some details about drones in his new book, according to reports. Bolton has long warned about Iranian drones proliferating to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including blaming the Houthis for attacks on Saudi Arabia in may 2019.
Bolton was a key figure in monitoring Iran during his time with the Trump administration. He focuses on several issues, such as the Iranian shoot-down of the US Global Hawk in June 2019. The US did no retaliate but considered striking facilities in Iran. The US did not respond to previous provocative behavior, he indicates. Bolton mentions the drone attack on Venezuela’s leader in August 2018.
Iran armed Yemen’s Houthis with drones, a fact the US has made clear via its Iran Materials Display in Washington. One drone on display is “shows Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles components at Joint Base Anacostia-Boling in Washington, D.C. May 2, 2018. The display accompanies a multi-national collection of evidence proving Iranian weapons proliferation in violation of United Nations resolutions 2216 and 2231.” An accompanying DoD photo by EJ Hersom shows the drone (above).
Iran tried to claim that drones caused the attack on ships in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019 as well. There was a build up of drones with the Houthis and among Shi’ite militias in Iraq at this time. The US appears to allege that militias launched a strike on Saudi Arabia from Iraq in May 2019.
The Houthis also shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper over Yemen in August 2019 using surface-to-air missiles. Bolton indicates the US warned Japan about these incidents and was concerned. The US only responded when the USS Boxer, with Marines aboard, downed an Iranian drone. Bu overall the drone downing count was not in the US favor. In addition to the Global Hawk, it appears that three US drones were downed by the Houthis during the period leading up to August 23, 2019. It is unclear if Iranian advisors or technicians were involved. Bolton’s time in office coincides with this rapid change in the equation regarding drones, not only Iranian proliferation but also the downing of more sophisticated US drones. The US also sought to show of elements of downed Iranian drones in Washington to show he clear link between Iran and the Houthis.