A December 2016 report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone finds that at least 32 identifiable drone models made in six countries have been used so far in the wars in Iraq and Syria and says:
“In Syria and Iraq today, there are more drones, made in more countries, and flown by more groups, than in any previous conflict. Once primarily the domain of technologically advanced militaries such as the United States, drones are being adopted by less technologically advanced militaries, militias, and non-state actors with increasing frequency, and these groups are adapting the technology to a range of operations.”
The report gives the following breakdown on the countries of origin of drones being flown in Iraq and Syria:
United States - 10 - includes the Reaper, Predator, Grey Eagle.
China - 9 - includes the CH-4, which can be armed with missiles.
Iran - 6 - includes the Shahed-129, which can be armed with missiles.
Russia - 4
Israel - 2
Turkey - 1- The Bayraktar, which can be armed with missiles.
And the Bard report says:
“The conflict represents the first known use of many of these systems in actual combat. The Iranian Shahed-129 and Chinese CH-4, two rough equivalents to the U.S. MQ-1 Predator, conducted their first known drone strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2016 and 2015 respectively. Affordable recreational drones made in China have also made their way onto the battlefield, marking a milestone in the widespread proliferation of aerial surveillance platforms among insurgent and terrorist groups. The conflict marks the first time that hobby drones have been modified with explosives and turned into flying improvised explosive devices.”
This very significant use of drones in combat comes within the context of expanding adoption of drones across the world - 78 nations are reported to have built or purchased surveillance drones and more than 20 own or are building weaponized drones. http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-drone-proliferation-2-20160222-story.html
The world-wide acceleration of drone surveillance and drone killing has clearly been lead by the United States under the presidency of Barack Obama, who has chosen to completely ignore the fundamental illegalities of drone stalking and assassination noted in the Legality of Drone Killing section of this website.
President Obama, who embraced and oversaw the burgeoning drone killing mechanism that he inherited from his predecessor, said in an interview in New York magazine, said that he has made “a lot of internal reforms” in the drone program because “early in my presidency” there was a “routineness” with which the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency were launching drone attacks.
“And it troubled me, because I think you could see, over the horizon, a situation in which, without Congress showing much interest in restraining actions with authorization that were written broadly, you end up with a president who can carry out perpetual wars all over the world, and a lot of them covert, without any accountability or democratic debate.”
In this interview, President Obama suggests that there is a way to regulate killer drone use, ignoring its fundamental illegality.
Consistent with President Obama’s attempt to legitimize drone killing, the U.S. is now circulating for international approval the Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS).
The document astoundingly speaks about the dangers of the “misuse” of weaponized drones, including the possibility that misuse will “fuel conflict and instability”. It sets out “principles” such as the need to observe international law relating to armed conflict, human rights and arms control. This, of course, ignores the fact that misuse, by the U.S. government’s own definition, is happening at present under the orders of the U.S. government.
So far, 40 nations have signed the declaration; notably none of them are under drone attack or in the Middle East, and none, other than the U.S., are among nations producing drones being used in Iraq and Syria.
Israel, the world’s largest exporter of weaponized drones, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/20/israel-worlds-largest-drone-exporter has also declined sign the declaration, apparently believing it will limit their drone exports. http://www.defensenews.com/articles/israel-wary-of-us-armed-drone-initiative
“At present,” writes Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University in Boston Review http://bostonreview.net/richard-falk-drone-warfare-international-law , “there seems to be no way to insulate societies from intrusive and perpetual surveillance, let alone remotely targeted devastation.”
Professor Falk suggests that international efforts to control surveillance or killer drones will follow the path of international “control” of nuclear weapons in which efforts are made to stop the spread of the weapon but not do away with it. This is a path of lesser evil, he says, “but still evil.”
He acknowledges that some may think he is exaggerating the threat of drones as compared to nuclear weapons. But, he says, “the catastrophic power of nuclear weapons and the prospect of releasing atmospheric radioactivity to some extent inhibit their use. By contrast, drones are inexpensive and non-apocalyptic, making it much easier for nations to drift complacently into an unanticipated day of reckoning.”
These points are underscored very powerfully in the movie "Do Not Resist", which makes clear to an American audience how military technology generally, and surveillance technology in particular, drives extremely repressive and deadly police, as well as military, behaviors.