Pentagon Continues to Provoke Iranian Response to US Drones

November 10th, 2012 - by admin

Al Jazeera & The Sundance Institute – 2012-11-10 23:15:48

Iranian Fighters ‘Fired on US Drone in Gulf’
Al Jazeera

(November 8, 2012) — Two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed US drone in the Gulf last week and missed, the Pentagon has said, warning that the US stood ready to protect its forces in the region. The incident occurred on November 1, less than a week before the US presidential election, the Department of Defence said.

“They intercepted the aircraft and fired multiple rounds,” spokesman George Little told a news conference on Thursday.

The exchange is the latest episode between the two countries amid a mounting crisis over Tehran’s nuclear programme and a shadow war marked by cyber-attacks and assassinations in Iran.

Tough new sanctions led by the US are squeezing Iran’s economy while Washington is accused of staging cyber sabotage on Tehran’s uranium enrichment plants.

‘International Airspace’
The US military drone was “never in Iranian air space” and came under fire from Su-25 fighters off the Iranian coast over international waters, Little said.

The robotic Predator aircraft was conducting “routine surveillance” and the US has told Iran it has no plans to suspend the flights, he said.

“The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters over the Arabian Gulf consistent with longstanding practice and our commitment to the security of the region,” the spokesman said.

Little said the US was prepared to safeguard its forces. “We have a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military, to protect our military assets and our forces in the region and will do so when necessary,” Little said.

The Predator returned safely to an unspecified military base in the region following the incident that occurred at 4:50am US eastern standard time (08:50 GMT).

The MQ-1 drone, a turboprop plane that flies at a much slower speed than the fighter jets, was pursued further by the Iranian warplanes but not fired on again, Little added.

The Predator was intercepted about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast, beyond the country’s territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles off the country’s shore, the Pentagon said.

More Sanctions
At the US State Department, officials unveiled more sanctions on Iran, targeting the communications minister and the culture ministry among others for censoring the media and the internet.

The move against Communications Minister Reza Taghipour came after he was blamed for ordering the jamming of international satellite TV broadcasts and restricting internet access, a department official said.

The US is determined to stop the “Iranian government from creating an ‘electronic curtain’ to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Iran Says It Shot Down US Drone in Eastern Province
JohnThomas Didymus / Al Jazeera

TEHRAN (December 4, 2011) — Iran’s state television Al Alam, reported on Sunday that the Iranian military shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone that violated its airspace. The report said, “Iran’s military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran.”

The Iranian Fars news agency also corroborated the report by Al Alam, saying that the plane is now in the possession of Iran’s armed forces.

According to the report by Fars, the drone was brought down in a joint action by Iran’s army, air defense forces and its electronic warfare unit, after it “briefly” violated the country’s airspace at the eastern borders.

Al Jazeera, quoting Fars news agency, said the drone was “downed with slight damage. It is now under the control of our forces.”

Iranian military sources warned that Iran’s response to foreign aggression will “not be limited to our country’s borders.” Reuters reports Iran had earlier, in its face off with the US over its alleged nuclear weapons program, threatened that it would respond to aggression by attack on US interests in the Gulf and Israel.

Analysts take this to mean that Iran would launch hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf, and close the Strait of Hormuz through which about 40 percent of oil traded in the Gulf region leaves.

Al Jazeera, however, said it was not able to independently verify the news and U.S. authorities have not confirmed the report.

Al Jazeera reports this is not the first time Iran is announcing that it has brought down unmanned U.S. spy planes. In January, Iran’s military claimed it brought down two U.S. drones that violated its airspace.

The Iranian authorities said they would display the drones in public but did not do so. In June, commander of the Guard’s aerospace unit Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, announced that Iran had allowed Russian experts examine the US drones.The army chief claimed that,

“Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering.”

Also, in July, Iran claimed it shot down a U.S. spy plane over the holy city of Qom, close to its Fordu nuclear site.
The U.S. has used unmanned aircraft for several strike operations in the region. They have used them to launch missile strikes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The announcement by Iran that it has brought down a US military aircraft comes in the middle of a diplomatic row with Britain after storming of the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday. Britain in reaction evacuated its diplomatic staff from Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in London. Several EU member states also recalled their ambassadors following the incident.

UPDATE: Iran Says ‘US Drone Violated Our Airspace’
Jason Ditz /

(November 9, 2012) — US officials are expressing “strong concerns” at the Iranian military’s attempt to shoot down a military drone looming off the Iranian coast, saying that transmitted a complaint by way of the Swiss embassy. Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi confirmed the incident but insisted that the drone was inside Iranian airspace at the time, and that chasing it out with warplanes was a legitimate defensive action.

US officials maintain that the drone was just slightly outside of Iranian airspace, but the difference in the two versions is only one of a couple of miles. Defense Minister Vahidi also said Iran would follow up on the claimed violation with “the appropriate international bodies.”

In the end, few nations are liable to blame Iran for acting against a US drone after years of administration bellicosity toward them either way, especially since the drone wasn’t even damaged in the chase. And while the media may be hysterical for a few days about “Iranian aggression” or the fact that the incident happened before the US election but was hushed up, only to emerge immediately thereafter, it is unlikely to lead to any real policy changes; just another example of the ‘background noise’ in the tense US-Iran relationship.

UPDATE: Iran Says US Drone that Came Under Fire was in Iranian Airspace
Nasser Karimi / The Associated Press & ABC News

TEHRAN (November 10, 2012) — Iran Iran’s defense minister said Friday that a US drone violated Iranian airspace a week ago when Pentagon says the pilotless aircraft came under fire. The US maintains the drone was over international waters.

“Last week, an unknown aircraft entered Iran’s airspace in the Persian Gulf,” said Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. “It was forced to leave on time by a wise and strong reaction on the part of the Iranian armed forces.”

Vahidi’s remarks came a day after the Pentagon said an Iranian military plane fired on — at least twice — but did not hit, an unarmed US drone a week ago. A Pentagon spokesman said the pilotless aircraft was in international airspace over the Persian Gulf and returned to base unharmed.

The shooting in the Gulf, which occurred just before 5 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Nov. 1, was unprecedented, though it marked the second incident involving a US drone and Iran.

Last December, a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone equipped with stealth technology was captured in eastern Iran. Tehran claims it brought down the aircraft, but US officials said the drone malfunctioned and had to land.

Vahidi, the Iranian defense minister, was quoted Friday by the country’s official IRNA news agency as saying last week’s incident “proves that Iran monitors all moves (in the Gulf) and will apply necessary and strong action when needed.”

His remarks followed those of Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Saleh Jokar who earlier Friday told state-owned news website that Iranian fighters shot at the US drone because it had entered Iranian airspace.

“Violation of the airspace of Iran was the reason for shooting at the American drone,” Jokar said. “This showed Iran has the necessary readiness to defend against any invasion.”

Also, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Masoud Jazayeri, a senior general in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, as saying Iran would confront any “flying object” that entered its air space and would “strongly respond to any ground, sea or air invasion.”

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Thursday that the US drone was performing “routine surveillance” and was about 26 kilometers (16 miles) off the Iranian coast when an Iranian SU-25 warplane intercepted it and opened fire. He said it was the first time an unmanned US aircraft was shot at in international airspace over the Gulf.

“Our aircraft was never in Iranian air space. It was always flying in international air space,” Little told Pentagon reporters. He said the US informed the Iranians that it would continue to conduct such surveillance flights in international airspace.

In the case of the Sentinel drone, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

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