Reading Time: 3 minutes read
DUBAI—Iran said Thursday that it shot down a U.S. military drone, the latest in a series of skirmishes across the Middle East that have stoked fears of a wider military conflict.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said its air force brought down the American surveillance drone in a southern coastal region along the Strait of Hormuz, according to Iranian state-owned Press TV. The IRGC said the drone had violated its airspace.
A U.S. official confirmed to the Associated Press that a U.S. Navy MQ-4C drone in international airspace had been shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Iranian state media identified the drone as an RQ4 Global Hawk.
Hossein Salami, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, said the downing of the drone sent a message to the U.S. that Tehran would protect its borders.
“Borders are our red lines. Any enemy that invades these borders will not return [home],” he said in a speech, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. “We don’t have any intention to go [to] war with any country, but we are completely ready for war.”
The drone incident is the latest in a series of clashes across the Middle East as tensions rise between the U.S. and Tehran over American sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
The drone’s downing was announced hours after the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for firing a missile that struck a desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. On Wednesday a rocket hit a compound in southern Iraqused by Exxon Mobil Corp. and other international oil firms, the fourth time in a week that projectiles have been fired at facilities where American personnel are stationed in the country.
The U.S. has blamed Iran for attacking six tankers in the Gulf of Omanin the past month and a half. Iran denied the allegation.
The U.S. military said last week that Iran fired a missile at another drone responding to an attack on two tankers near the Gulf of Oman.
Manufactured by U.S.-based Northrop GrummanCorp. , the MQ-4C Triton is a reconnaissance drone that can provide real-time intelligence and surveillance to a command and control center. The aircraft was built for the U.S. Navy and can fly over 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles, according to Northrop.
The U.S. in the past used surveillance drones to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. In 2011, Iran said it had shot down an American RQ-170 spy drone 140 miles inside Iran, broadcasting footage of the unmanned vehicle on state television. U.S. officials at the same time said the drone appeared to match one that had gone missing in Afghanistan, but said the drone crashed, and wasn’t shot down.
In 2012, Pentagon officials said Iran had shot at a U.S. drone flying over the Persian Gulf, prompting strong protests to the Iranian government.
The U.S. has rapidly been growing its military presence in the region. Earlier this week, the White House said it would send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East in response to “hostile behavior” by Tehran, following a decision in May to deploy an extra 1,500 soldiers.
The U.S. commitment came the same day Iran said it would stockpile more enriched uranium in the next 10 days than allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. President Trump has scrapped that agreement and returned to sanctions on Iran to seek a better deal and rein in what the U.S. believes is Tehran’s malignant actions in the Middle East.