CIA ‘flying spy planes over Iran’

THE UNITED States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is flying unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Iran, according to reports.

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By  David Robinson Published  April 3, 2005

THE UNITED States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is flying unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Iran, according to reports. Senior military and aerospace industry officials are quoted as saying the drones are looking for Iranian nuclear facilities and delivery systems such as long-range ballistic missiles. “The aircraft being flown over Iran belong to the CIA, not the Defence Department,” said a senior Air Force official, quoted in leading aerospace weekly Aviation Week & Space Technology. “They are using the I-Gnats and Predators used early in the Afghanistan war. They are not wide-area collectors like the Global Hawk. They focus on small areas, and that’s what they need to find those dispersed [nuclear weapons development] sites,” he added. A US embassy spokeswoman in Abu Dhabi said because the subject concerned intelligence matters she was unable to comment on the report. The probes could have been launched from a number of sites, including from small bases in remote areas of Afghanistan or Iraq, or intriguingly from Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. When approached by Arabian Business, a UAE Ministry of Defence spokesman refused to comment on whether the CIA was launching flights out of the country. Last week, allegations surfaced that Iran had built a secret underground facility inside a tightly guarded military complex to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear programme is for electricity production and has denied Bush administration allegations that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons. The CIA first used armed Predators — flown remotely by US Air Force pilots — on combat missions from bases in Uzbekistan. Since both the Army and Air Force now operate similar Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the CIA’s small fleet could be flown from the same bases or from small bases in remote areas of Afghanistan or Iraq, officials said. Prior to the present conflict in Iraq, the US built airstrips in Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq near the Iranian border that could now be used by UAVs. UAVs are also known to operate from other countries in the region, including the UAE and Djibouti. Iranian newspapers in Tehran have been publishing stories since August last year about unidentified aircraft intruding into eastern and southwestern Iran. Local reports identified the intrusions as originating in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iranian authorities have issued orders to shoot down any suspicious object that violates the country’s airspace.

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