Tuesday 15 October 2019

Downed drone sends a message to America, says Iranian commander

Revolutionary Guard chief Hossein Salami said Iran does not want war – but is prepared for it.

A US Navy patrol near the Strait of Hormuz (AP)
A US Navy patrol near the Strait of Hormuz (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has said the shooting down of a US drone has sent “a clear message” to America.

General Hossein Salami also said Iran “does not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war”.

His speech was carried live on Iranian state television, shortly after US and Iranian officials acknowledged the drone had been brought down.

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The Revolutionary Guard answers to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Office of the Iranian supreme leader/AP)

Tehran says the drone was shot down over Iranian airspace, while US officials say the incident took place over the Strait of Hormuz, in international airspace.

The Revolutionary Guard said that the aircraft was hit as it entered Iranian territory near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 750 miles south-east of Tehran and close to the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, citing the Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk. However, the US Navy also flies a variant that looks similar called the MQ-4C Triton.

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Sailors stand on deck above a hole the US Navy says was made by a limpet mine on the damaged Panama-flagged, Japanese owned oil tanker Kokuka Courageous, anchored off Fujairah in the UAE (AP)

US officials said the Iranians fired a surface-to-air missile, striking the American drone. They said the incident happened over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all global oil moves through.

Previously, the US military alleged that Iran had fired a missile at another drone last week that was responding to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman.

The US blames Iran for the attack on the ships, although Tehran denies it was involved.

The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and Iran following US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Tehran’s nuclear deal a year ago.

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.

Iran recently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, in a bid to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 nuclear deal.

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An oil tanker on fire in the sea of Oman amid a number of mysterious attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf (AP)

In recent weeks, the US has sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region.

From Yemen, the Houthis have launched bomb-laden drones into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the US 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 US amid the crisis.

Gen Salami, speaking to a crowd in the western city of Sanandaj, described the American drone as “violating our national security border”.

He said: “Borders are our red line. Any enemy that violates the borders will be annihilated.”

Iran has claimed to have shot down American drones in the past.

In the most 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 neighbouring Afghanistan.

The Iranians later reverse-engineered the drone to create their own variants.

PA Media

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