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Iran claims to scare off US drones near its war games in Gulf

Amid high tensions ahead of resumption of nuclear talks, Tehran says air defenses shot at 2 UAVs near strategic Strait of Hormuz, causing them to change course

A US Navy Martin UAV drone flies over the Gulf waters as the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in a joint naval exercise between the US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, October 26, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)
A US Navy Martin UAV drone flies over the Gulf waters as the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in a joint naval exercise between the US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, October 26, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)

Iran fended off two American drones trying to approach the site of a major Iranian military drill in the Gulf, local media claimed Tuesday.

“These aircraft (RQ-4 and MQ-9 US drones) changed their route after approaching the borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran following the air defense’s interception and decisive warning,” state broadcaster IRIB said, according to the Reuters news agency.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States.

Iran’s military concluded its annual war games in a coastal area of the Gulf of Oman on Tuesday, less than a month before upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

Dubbed “Zolfaghar-1400,” the war games are aimed at “improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion,” state TV said.

Iranian media said navy and air force units, as well as ground forces, participated in an area of more than 1 million square kilometers (386,100 square miles), east of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Nearly 20 percent of all oil shipping passes through the strait to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

In this picture released by the Iranian Army on November 7, 2021, troops attend a maneuver in a coastal area in southeastern Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

The development comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US in the wake of former president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

As the US withdrew from the deal in 2018 and restored sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic gradually — and publicly — abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.

Iran says its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms (463 pounds), the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

Under the nuclear deal, Iran was prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67%. Enriched uranium above 90% can be used for nuclear weapons, though Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

After months of delays, the European Union, Iran and the US announced last week that indirect talks to resuscitate the deal would resume November 29 in Vienna.

Talks began in April in Vienna between Tehran and the remaining five parties to the 2015 deal, aimed at bringing Washington back into the agreement. But that dialogue has been stalled since the sixth round of talks in June, when ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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