Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

June 20, 2019– Mary Greeley News – U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed Iran’s downing of a U.S. military drone on Thursday, saying he suspected it was shot by mistake and that “it would have made a big difference” to him if the remotely controlled aircraft had been piloted.

While the comments appeared to suggest Trump was not eager to escalate the latest in a series of incidents with Iran, he also warned that, “This country will not stand for it.”

Tehran claims that the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone was on a spy mission over Iranian territory, but Washington argues it was shot down over international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has reportedly released a video showing the moment a US military drone in Hormuzgan province was downed, according to the Press TV state broadcaster.

The footage appeared shortly after commander-in-chief of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Hossein Salami said that a US drone had been downed to send a “clear message” to Washington that the country is fully prepared to defend itself.

The video is edited to make it appear the missile traveled a shorter distance than it actually did to take out the drone. As the drone is seen exploding from the impact, celebrating soldiers can be heard off camera shouting Islamist supremacy slogans, “Allahu akbar!”, and then “Inshallah!…”

“I think probably Iran made a mistake. I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

The United Nations said Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to “exercise maximum restraint” and avoid any further escalation in the wake of the drone incident.

Guterres is “very concerned” and stressed again “that the world cannot afford a major conflict in that area,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Abbas Mousavi, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying Iran cannot condone the “illegal trespassing and invading of the country’s skies by any kind of foreign flying object,” and that the “invaders will bear full responsibility.”

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

But U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the United States has no appetite to go to war with Iran. Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, and Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, were summoned to take part in an emergency meeting on the drone incident at the White House Situation Room later Thursday, forcing a meeting between McConnell and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be postponed.

US Air Forces Central Command Cmdr. Joseph Guastella told reporters that the Iranian reports the drone was shot down over Iran are “categorically false.” Guastella said the drone was flying at a high altitude and about 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast and did not do anything to provoke the attack.

Later in the day, US President Donald Trump told reporters that he will soon make a decision on whether to strike Iran after it downed the drone.

The incident caused oil prices to spike as much as four per cent. West Texas Intermediate was up by $2.29 US to more than $56 a barrel, while the world benchmark, Brent was up more than $2 at over $63 a barrel.

The event, which the United States described as an “unprovoked attack,” is the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf region — a critical artery for global oil supplies — since mid-May, including explosive strikes on six oil tankers as Tehran and Washington have edged toward confrontation.

Trump decided a year ago to withdraw from Tehran’s nuclear deal. Now Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 nuclear deal. The European Union announced Thursday it plans to chair a meeting between the nations involved in the embattled Iran nuclear deal in Vienna on June 28.

In recent weeks, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. The White House separately said it was aware of reports of a missile strike on Saudi Arabia amid a campaign targeting the kingdom by Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.

1st direct Iranian-claimed attack on U.S. of crisis

All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution. Thursday’s drone incident marks the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on the U.S. amid the crisis.

Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down US drone amid tensions

“We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully ready for war,” Gen. Hossein Salami, Revolutionary Guard commander, said in a televised address.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a U.S. military attack on Iran would be a catastrophe for the Middle East that would trigger a surge in violence and a possible refugee exodus.

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The Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone on Thursday at 4:05 a.m. local time when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 1,200 kilometers southeast of Tehran and close to the Strait of Hormuz.

The Guard said it shot down the drone after collecting data from Iranian territory, including the southern port of Chahbahar near Iran’s border with Pakistan. Iran used its air defense system known as Third of Khordad to shoot down the drone — a truck-based missile system that can fire up to 30 kilometers into the sky, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

RQ-4 Global Hawks cost over $100 million US apiece and can fly higher than 16 kilometers in altitude and stay in the air for over 24 hours at a time. They have a distinguishable hump-shaped front and an engine atop. Their wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 737 passenger jet.

The Revolutionary Guard described the drone as being launched from the southern Persian Gulf but did not elaborate.

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American RQ-4 Global Hawks are stationed at the Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, near the capital of Abu Dhabi. AP journalists saw the drones on the base’s tarmac during a March 2016 visit by then U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.

The U.S. has been worried about international shipping through the strait since the limpet mine attacks in May and June.

Saudis say Houthis fired rocket at desalination plant
Iran has claimed to have shot down American drones in the past.

In a famous incident, Iran seized an RQ-170 Sentinel in December 2011 flown by the CIA to monitor Iranian nuclear sites after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan. The Iranians later reverse-engineered the drone to create their own variants.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a rocket at a desalination plant in al-Shuqaiq, a city in the kingdom’s Jizan province. The state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted a military spokesperson, Col. Turki al-Maliki, as saying no damage was caused and no one was wounded. The Yemeni rebel Al-Masirah satellite news channel earlier said the Houthis targeted a power plant in Jizan, near the kingdom’s border with Yemen, with a cruise missile.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the conflict. In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched a new campaign sending missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.

Mary Greeley News

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