Chinese, Local Drones Reflect Changing Middle East

Article/Op-Ed in Reuters
March 6, 2019

Peter Apps wrote for Reuters , citing David Sterman's New America blog , about changes in the international drone landscape.

Ever since 9/11, drones have been amongst the most visible, and often controversial, signs of American power in the Middle East and beyond. But as regional powers look to chart their own course, a new generation of cheaper unmanned aerial vehicles - Chinese or locally built, with far fewer restrictions on their use - are taking to the skies.
The last five years have seen a dramatic rise in their use. Forbidden to purchase weapons-carrying U.S. drones due to export restrictions, several countries – particularly Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – have bought armed Chinese models and use them extensively in action. Turkey – increasingly isolated from other Middle East powers and with its own spats with Washington and Beijing – has invested heavily in building its own, its latest model carrying out its first combat strike in January.
So has Iran here, lifting technical secrets from captured U.S. and Israeli drones and providing UAVs to non-state groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen. The latter have used them to target government bases here, and claimed July and August 2018 attacks on major UAE airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.