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Iran Shoots Down US Naval Drone in Persian Gulf Region, Escalating Tensions
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51016"><span class="small">Erin Cunningham and Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Thursday, 20 June 2019 13:10

Excerpt: "Iran shot down a U.S. naval surveillance drone with the wingspan of an airliner near the Strait of Hormuz early Thursday, escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region and prompting the White House to call an emergency meeting with top congressional leaders."

Two Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles are seen on the tarmac at a Northrop Grumman test facility in Palmdale, California, May 22, 2013, in this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy. (photo: Reuters)
Two Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles are seen on the tarmac at a Northrop Grumman test facility in Palmdale, California, May 22, 2013, in this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy. (photo: Reuters)


Iran Shoots Down US Naval Drone in Persian Gulf Region, Escalating Tensions

By Erin Cunningham and Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post

20 June 19

 

ran shot down a U.S. naval surveillance drone with the wingspan of an airliner near the Strait of Hormuz early Thursday, escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region and prompting the White House to call an emergency meeting with top congressional leaders.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement that it targeted the drone — which it identified as an RQ-4 Global Hawk — inside Iranian airspace over the southern province of Hormozgan, next to the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. Central Command confirmed the incident Thursday but denied that the aircraft was in Iranian airspace.

“Iran made a very big mistake!” President Trump tweeted Thursday in his first public comment on the incident. He later told reporters, “I have a feeling . . . that it was a mistake made by somebody” who, he suggested, was acting without orders from Iran’s leadership.

“I’m not just talking about the country made a mistake. I’m talking about somebody under the command of that country made a mistake,” Trump said.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional” on the part of the leadership, he said. Rather, Trump said, “I imagine that it was a general or somebody that made a mistake.” He added: “I think it could have been somebody that was loose and stupid. . . . It was a very foolish move.”

Speaking at a White House meeting with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said the drone was over international waters and that everything has been “scientifically documented.” Asked about a possible response, he was noncommittal, saying, “Let’s see what happens.” But he also said: “This is a new wrinkle. This is a new fly in the ointment — what happened, shooting down the drone — and this country will not stand for it.”

Trudeau said he was “very concerned” about the matter and expressed a desire to work with the international community to resolve it.

The White House invited a bipartisan group of top congressional leaders to a meeting Thursday afternoon on Iran. Among those who received the invitation were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence and armed services committees.

“U.S. Central Command can confirm that a U.S. Navy . . . aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz,” a Centcom spokesman, Navy Capt. Bill Urban, said in a statement. 

A U.S. official confirmed later that U.S. naval assets were attempting to recover pieces of the drone from a debris field said to be in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s oil passes through the waterway, which connects Middle East energy producers to markets around the globe.

Urban said the drone, a RQ-4A Global Hawk, was shot down early Thursday. “Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” he said. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone feed, Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, head of U.S. air forces in the Middle East, said the drone was flying in the vicinity of recent attacks and did not at any time veer into Iranian airspace. In what he also characterized as an “unprovoked attack,” he said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from an area close to Goruk, Iran.

He said the drone, which was flying at high altitude, was 34 kilometers (21 miles) from the nearest point on Iran’s coast. “This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, UAE, and Muscat, Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians,” Guastella said.

It marks the second time this month that the U.S. military has confirmed the shoot-down of a drone, following the June 6 loss of an MQ-9 Reaper drone that the Pentagon said was shot down by Houthi forces from Yemen that are allied with Iran.

But the downing of an RQ-4 is much more significant, considering its size and value. With a wingspan of 131 feet, each Global Hawk is worth more than $100 million, packed with sensors and able to fly at high altitudes of more than 55,000 feet to observe broad areas for periods that can stretch longer than a day.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the RQ-4 shot down by Iran was an older “demonstrator” model transferred from the Air Force to the Navy to carry out a mission known as Broad Area Maritime Surveillance. The Pentagon has since begun testing a newer cousin, the MQ-4C Triton.

Neither version carries weapons.

The drone was shot down just days before acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan is due to leave office. He is handing responsibility for the military to another acting official, Mark Esper, who does not have experience leading policy decisions at the Cabinet level. Esper, who now serves as army secretary, is due to take over on Monday.

The Revolutionary Guard’s chief commander, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, called the downing of the drone “a clear message to America.” 

“Our borders are Iran’s red line, and we will react strongly against any aggression,” Salami said Thursday in remarks carried by Iranian state television. 

“Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran,” he said.

Iran’s Mashregh news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guard, reported that the drone was shot down by the Guards’ Sevom Khordad missile defense system.

The Guard said in an updated statement that the U.S. drone had “left a base in the southern Persian Gulf” and was heading toward Iran’s Chabahar port “in full secrecy, violating the rules of international aviation.” 

“While returning to the western Hormuz Strait’s region, the drone violated Iran’s airspace and engaged in information-gathering and spying,” the statement said. It said the aircraft was shot down at 4:05 a.m. Iranian local time while it was “over Iranian territory.”

“We warn of the consequences of such illegal and provocative measures,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, state TV reported. 

At its narrowest, the strait is just 21 nautical miles wide, and ships passing through it must enter the territorial waters of Iran and Oman. Under the rule of the shah in 1959, Iran extended its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles and declared that it would recognize only “innocent passage” through the area, essentially excluding warships engaging in activities deemed hostile. Oman also claimed a 12-mile territorial limit in 1972 and later demanded that foreign warships obtain permission to pass through its waters. The United States does not recognize any restrictions on transit through the strait.

Tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region have been rising since a Japanese and a Norwegian tanker were attacked last week near the Strait of Hormuz. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the attacks, at least one of which was carried out using a limpet mine similar to those previously displayed at Iranian military parades. 

Iran has denied involvement and called the accusation “unfair” and “a lie.” 

The U.S. Central Command said that a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile was fired at an MQ-9 reaper drone over the Gulf of Oman as it surveilled the attack on the Japanese tanker, Kokuka Courageous, on June 13. 

Earlier this month, Houthi rebels shot down an MQ-9 over Yemen using an SA-6 surface-to-air missile, Centcom said, which it claimed “was enabled by Iranian assistance.” 

Saudi Arabia said Thursday that Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a rocket targeting a desalination plant in the kingdom overnight. The rocket caused no damage, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, quoting military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki. 

In December 2011, Iran captured an American stealth drone operated from a base in Afghanistan, purportedly after an Iranian cyberwarfare unit commandeered it and landed it near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran. Tehran claimed that the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone was detected inside Iranian airspace about 140 miles from the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials said operators lost control of the drone while it was flying on the Afghan side of the border with Iran.

Iran later claimed that it recovered data from the drone and reverse-engineered the aircraft to produce its own version.

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+5 # indian weaving 2019-06-20 17:20
Iran didn't escalate any threats, the USA did here. Iran is only defending its territory. The USA escalated the threat by invading Iran's airspace, as usual.
 
 
+1 # randrjwr 2019-06-20 22:56
And what do you think we would do if a foreign drone of any size, let alone as big as an airliner, appeared in or anywhere near our airspace? I think that, at the very least, an apology to Iran by the USA is in order.
 
 
0 # tedrey 2019-06-21 04:20
Are the United States and Iran prepared to accept neutral or international arbitration of this issue under international investigation and decision? If not, they are both in violation of international law and further hostilities should be sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. recusing itself. (Iran is not a member.) All U.N. members are bound by these decisions.
 
 
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-21 06:13
The US has 45 military bases surrounding Iran. The US keeps building military bases closer and closer. The US is closing in. It runs its naval ships right up to Iran's border. If flies planes right up to Iran's border. And drones fly into Iran quite regularly.

Iran had every right in the world to shot down this drone. As I.W. says, Iran has the right to defend its territory. The US has the obligation to respect the sovereignty of other nations.

But in reality, the war has already started. Economic sanctions are a form of war. They are siege warfare. They are designed to starve a population into surrender. Bolton and Pompeo have said many times they intend to reduce Iran's oil sales to zero. So Iranians will starve unless they surrender.

Where is the United Nations? It was created to end the scourge of war. Why has it not intervened to stop the US aggression? What's the matter with the UN?
 
 
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-21 07:03
Here's an interesting list of drones shot down, crashed, or destroyed in any way since they came into use in 2007. There are more than 300 downed drones. That's a huge number. Drones might as well just be cruise missiles since they get blown up so often.

https://dronewars.net/drone-crash-database/


The drone that Iran shot down cost $130 million. If the average cost of drones is $100 million and 300 of them have crashed or been shot down that is $30 billion. This is money just thrown away. Drones don't do any good for anyone -- well, maybe the drone making corporations are making out well.

$30 billion up in smoke.
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2019-06-21 09:40
I would have hoped that the WaPo would have expressed at least some skepticism of the Pentagon's story about the drone being in international waters and not in Iranian air space. It is long past time that the MSM stop being credulous sycophants of the administration and start doing their job of protecting our democracy.

"In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy.

The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.

The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilitie s of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people: Black Hugo L.

"The free press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty" -  Adlai E. Stevenson 

It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood: Thomas Jefferson
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-22 05:14
T.A. -- good post. I too wish the Wapo would sometimes question the official stories coming out of the Pentagon, CIA, and the rest of the national security apparatus. They have lied in the past, especially in matters that lead up to the start of a war.

"Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilitie s of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people: Black Hugo L.

"The free press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty" - Adlai E. Stevenson "


These are exactly why Assange is a media hero and also exactly why the government is so hell bent on silencing him.
 
 
0 # lfeuille 2019-06-21 19:48
"Escalating tensions"? So their supposed to accept violations of their air space in order to avoid provoking the egotistical baby in the White House. Trump was the one "escalating tensions".