Fancy drones and ballistic missiles decimate U.S. forces
by MATTHEW GAULT
American troops descend from a helicopter onto a green field peppered by palm-like tees. A fog hangs over the area and all the soldiers are faceless. Masks, mirrored goggles and technological doodads cover their features. Indistinct chatter fills the air as the soldiers move forward, their weapons raised.
They’re ready for war.
Fade into gunfire. The mirrored glasses of an American soldier pumping round after round into an unseen enemy. An armed robot outfitted with a sniper rifle moves along the outskirts of the soldiers, picking them off one by one. A dexterous commando rolls forward, unslings his sidearm and fires. It has no effect.
Two ground combat drones encircle the soldiers, slaughtering them where they stand. The U.S. soldiers die, the drones prevail and Iran stops an American invasion. This isn’t the opening moment of a new Hollywood summer blockbuster, but a sample scene from an Iranian animated movie.
In The Battle of Persian Gulf 2, Tehran kicks Washington’s ass.
“I hope that the film shows Trump how American soldiers will face a humiliating defeat if they attack Iran,” the film’s director Farhad Azima told Reuters.
He and his team have worked on the film for four years — animated movies are a lengthy pain in the ass to produce — and he finds the timing of its release funny. Azima considers Trump a warmonger and a tyrant.
Azima’s fear is understandable. U.S. president Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized former president Barack Obama’s handling of Iran. He has said the previous administration’s deal with Tehran over nuclear weapons was a bad one, called for a tougher stance on Iran and edged closer to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions on the subject. Robert Harward, Trump’s first choice to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser — he has since withdrawn himself from consideration — once drew up war plans for a fight with Iran.
Footage from The Battle of Persian Gulf 2 have been all over the Internet the past few days as part of a marketing push in the runup to its release. It has jarred Western audiences because, quite frankly, we’re only used to seeing this kind of material when we’re the heroes.
“Hollywood has created many films against Iran. There are many computer games in which U.S. soldiers conquer our country. We made this film as an answer to that propaganda,” Azima told Reuters.
He’s not wrong. The popular Battlefield franchise depicts an American siege on Tehran in its third and fourth installment. Command & Conquer: Generals — Zero Hour depicts Iran funding the production of a horrifying new chemical weapon. In the recent RoboCop reboot, armed drones patrol the cities of Iran and terrorize its people.
America’s jingoist bullshit doesn’t excuse Iran’s jingoist bullshit. I only mention it to point out that the West makes these kinds of movies all the time and no one here bats an eye.
In any case, the footage we’ve seen of The Battle of Persian Gulf 2 is, well, kind of crappy. As the director freely admits, they don’t have the budget that big American features have. This ain’t Pixar. The people, in particular, look awful compared to what Western film audiences are used to.
The military hardware is another story. This film’s got it all, from the weird and wonderful world of Iranian ground drones to ground-launched ballistic missiles tearing up American destroyers. Let’s tackle that sniper drone first.
Like it or not, Iran is a drone power. To be clear, Tehran does love rolling out fake robots and other weapons in a news conferences without backing it up. But thanks to recent conflicts in the Middle East, outside observers have been able to confirm some of Iran’s crazier claims.
But does Iran have a sniper drone? It’s complicated. Again, this is a fictional film, but the technology isn’t completely crazy. Tehran has developed sophisticated ground drones — armed ones — but no one has seen them in battle. Aerial drones, deployed in Syria, are a different story.
That doesn’t mean no one’s seen the ground versions. Back in 2015, Iran state media made a big deal out of a ground exercise called Great Prophet 9. The war game made liberal use of Iran’s armed drones, including a IRGC-GF tactical ground drone that looks similar to the vehicle in the film’s footage.
The real life counterpart isn’t sporting that killer rifle though. The weapon attached resembles the stock and muzzle brake of a Sayyad 2 anti-materiel sniper rifle. It is Iran’s reverse engineered Steyr HS .50 — a nightmarish anti-material rifle manufactured in Austria.
This is a gun that punches a hole in armor and arming a drone with one, if the logistical problems are overcome, would create a lethally effective weapon of war.
The footage also shows another real Tehran-developed weapon — the Mesbah 1. The anti-aircraft guns only show up for a moment at the very end of the clip, but they’re an important part of Iran’s air defenses. The ridiculous looking weapon consists of four twin-barrel ZU-23–2 23-millimeter cannons strapped onto a rotating base.
The gun is billed as Tehran’s answer to cruise missiles.
But the most devastating weapon in The Battle of Persian Gulf 2 appears to be a Revolutionary Guard commander who looks suspiciously like Iranian folk hero Ghassem Soleymani. The general has led the Quds Force since 1998 — a special operations group responsible for exporting the Islamic revolution.
Putting a Soleymani analogue in the film would be like an American filmmaker putting the head of the CIA or U.S. Joint Special Operations Command in the next Transformers film.
Soleymani’s presence isn’t official, however. The director attempted to secure the rights to the general’s likeness, but his office never responded. The filmmaker told Reuters that officials close to Soleymani told him to keep the character, but change his name.
It’s always fascinating to study the art of another culture, especially when it’s a culture in conflict with our own. For many outside the West, America is a bully that uses its mighty military and vast wealth to push the rest of the world around and get its way.
Just as Russian and Arab villains populate America’s pop culture landscape, clean cut white dudes with bad American accents terrorize Russians and Iranians in foreign films. The Battle of Persian Gulf 2 is another film in a long line of anti-American propaganda that stokes the fires of Iranian nationalism.
It’s important to watch art like this for two reasons. One, it tells us what our geopolitical enemies really think of us and two, it reveals the ways in which our filmmakers reflect our own biases. When Iran, Russia or North Korea makes movies such as these, they’re only copying the lessons they learned from Western filmmakers.