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Tensions run high after Iran shoots down US drone

June 20, 2019

The US has confirmed that Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a maritime surveillance drone, but denied that it had been flying over Iranian airspace. US military officials called the incident an "unprovoked attack."

Global Hawk unmanned aircraft
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

On Thursday, Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a US drone in the southern province of Hormozgan.

State news agency IRNA quoted the Guard's news website, Sepah News, as saying that the Islamic country's military force targeted the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone when it entered Iran's airspace "near the Kouhmobarak district in the south."

General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, said the incident sent "a clear message" to the US, adding that Iran does "not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war."

The US military said it had not violated Iranian airspace on Wednesday, saying that the drone was flying in international airspace some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Iran over the Strait of Hormuz.

"Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," the US military's Central Command said in a statement. Officials called the incident "an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace."

Read more: Iran-US tensions flare in the Persian Gulf: What's at stake

Trump criticizes 'loose and stupid' decision

Addressing the downing of the drone, US President Donald Trump tweeted: "Iran made a very big mistake."

He later appeared to downplay the incident, saying it might have been a mistake by someone on the Iranian side who was being "loose and stupid," but added that the US "will not stand for it."

When asked by reporters if the US would respond, Trump replied, "you'll soon find out."

The comments came amid a meeting between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House.

Last week the US confirmed a previous Iranian attempt to shoot down one of its drones.

Chart showing restrictions on Iran nuclear program

Increasing tensions

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased over the past month, with the US accusing Iran of continued malign activity and unspecified threats against the United States and its allies. Washington has also increased its military presence in the region.

The US accused Iran last week of attacking Japanese- and Norwegian-flagged tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Washington released video and pictures purporting to show a Revolutionary Guard boat removing an unexploded limpet mine.

Iranian officials rejected US claims that Tehran was behind the blasts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday there was "strong evidence" Iran was behind the twin tanker attacks.

Read more: EU warns against blaming Iran for oil tanker attacks

Deal under threat

Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal last year and reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran that have hit oil exports and sent its economy into free fall.

On Monday, Iran warned that it would soon surpass the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the international deal, ratcheting up pressure on European signatories to save the accord.

Iran's atomic energy agency also raised the prospect of increasing enrichment levels beyond the 3.67% level allowed under the deal for peaceful purposes.

Read more: Opinion: A Persian Gulf war can have no winners

rs, shs/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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