Iran deputy FM suggests US downed its own drone ‘by mistake’
search

Iran deputy FM suggests US downed its own drone ‘by mistake’

Tehran denies its UAV was shot down in Strait of Hormuz by US naval ship after Trump announces clash

Illustrative: A UH-1Y Venom helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz, July 18, 2019. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released)
Illustrative: A UH-1Y Venom helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz, July 18, 2019. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released)

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi denied on Friday having lost any drone recently and hinted that the US could have downed their own “by mistake.”

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!” Araghchi tweeted, after the United States claimed it downed an unmanned Iranian aircraft.

US President Donald Trump said Thursday an American naval vessel shot down an Iranian drone that threatened the ship as it was entering the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Trump announced that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, “took defensive action” against the Iranian aircraft as it was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaking in Tehran, Iran, on October 22, 2013. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

The drone was “immediately destroyed” after it approached within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the Boxer, Trump said.

Tehran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters Thursday he had “no information about losing a drone today,” as he arrived at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The apparent confrontation between the two foes marked a new escalation of tensions between the countries less than one month after Iran downed an American drone in the same waterway and Trump came close to retaliating with a military strike.

The Pentagon said the incident happened at 10 a.m. local time Thursday in international waters while the Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Persian Gulf. The Boxer is among several US Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the nearby North Arabian Sea for weeks.

“A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a written statement. “The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”

Neither Trump nor the Pentagon spelled out how the Boxer destroyed the drone. CNN reported that the ship used electronic jamming to bring it down rather than hitting it with a missile.

The Iranians and Americans have had close encounters in the Strait of Hormuz in the past, and it’s not unprecedented for Iran to fly a drone near a US warship.

US President Donald Trump waiting to greet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as he arrives at the White House in Washington, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In December, about 30 Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels trailed the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and its strike group through the strait as Associated Press journalists on board watched. One small vessel launched what appeared to be a commercial-grade drone to film the US ships.

Other transits have seen the Iranians fire rockets away from American warships or test-fire their machine guns. The Guard’s small fast boats often cut in front of the massive carriers, running dangerously close to running into them in “swarm attacks.” The Guard boats are often armed with bomb-carrying drones and sea-to-sea and surface-to-sea missiles.

Thursday’s incident was the latest in a series of events that raised US-Iran tensions since early May when Washington accused Tehran of threatening US forces and interests in Iraq and in the Gulf. In response, the US accelerated the deployment of the Lincoln and its strike group to the Arabian Sea and deployed four B-52 long-range bombers to the Gulf state of Qatar. It has since deployed additional Patriot air defense missile batteries in the Gulf region.

Shortly after Iran shot down a US Navy drone aircraft on June 20, Trump ordered a retaliatory military strike but called it off at the last moment, saying the risk of casualties was disproportionate to the downing by Iran, which did not cost any US lives.

Iran claimed the US drone violated its airspace; the Pentagon denied this.

Zarif said Thursday that Iran and the US were only “a few minutes away from a war” after Iran downed the American drone. He spoke to US-based media on the sidelines of a visit to the United Nations.

The Thursday clash in one of the busiest waterways for international oil traffic highlighted the risk of war between two countries at odds over a wide range of issues. After Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and imposed additional economic sanctions, the Iranians have pushed back on the military front, allegedly sabotaging Saudi and other oil tankers in the Gulf, shooting down a US drone and stepping up support for Houthi rebels in Yemen.

read more:
less
comments
more