Iran said that it shot down a US drone in its airspace yesterday, escalating already fierce tensions in the Persian Gulf, a region supplying one-third of the world’s oil that has been on the brink of a military confrontation for weeks.
“We will defend Iran’s airspace and maritime boundaries with all our might,” Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary-General Ali Shamkhani was quoted as saying by state-run Islamic Students’ News Agency. “It doesn’t matter which country’s aircraft cross our airspace.”
Iranian media described it as a spy drone and said that it was hit near Kuh Mobarak on Iran’s southern Persian Gulf coast.
Photo: EPA-EFE / US Air Force
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards said that the drone had turned off its identification transponder, the Islamic Republic of Iranian Broadcasting reported.
“The drone took off from a ... base in the southern Persian Gulf... It had turned off all its identifying equipment in violation of aviation rules and was moving in full secrecy,” the state-run broadcasted quoted a Guards statement as saying.
Citing an unidentified US official, Fox News reported that a US Navy high-altitude drone was shot down in international airspace by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz, an oil shipment choke point.
The downing of the drone fanned fears that a military clash between the US and Iran is just a matter of time.
Tensions spiked after the US early last month tightened sanctions on Iranian oil sales, sent military reinforcements to the region and provoked an increasingly squeezed Iranian government to pull back on some of its commitments under the 2015 deal that was meant to prevent it from developing a nuclear bomb.
Washington quit the deal a year ago and reimposed sanctions to force Iran to rein back regional proxy militias.
Frictions flared further last week, after an attack on two oil tankers outside the entrance to the Gulf.
The US blamed Iran, which has denied involvement.
Iran on Monday warned European signatories that it would breach the nuclear accord, which had traded some sanctions relief for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program, as soon as Thursday next week unless they find a way to circumvent US penalties.
The reported drone downing followed an overnight missile strike by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels on Saudi Arabia.
A news agency operated by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said that they had hit a power station in Jazan Province on the southwestern coast of Saudi Arabia with a cruise missile.
That report could not be independently confirmed.
The Houthis have repeatedly attacked Saudi Arabian targets using drones and rockets since a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition backed by the US entered the Yemeni civil war in 2015 on the side of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Jazan, which borders Yemen, has proven to be an easy target, in closer range than the capital and other major cities further inside the kingdom.
There were no indications from Jazan residents that a catastrophic incident had taken place.
Electricity and water supplies did not appear to have been affected and it was not clear what, if anything, set the incident apart.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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