Iran vowed on Friday to defend its borders after downing a U.S. drone it insisted had violated the country’s airspace, after it emerged that President Donald Trump had approved and then called off retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets.
The downing of the drone — which Washington insists was above international waters but Iran says was within its airspace — has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf which the U.S. has blamed on Tehran.
The commander of the aerospace arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said the drone was warned twice before it was downed over the Gulf of Oman.
“This aircraft possesses a system which allows it to relay the signals and information it receives to its own central system,” Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh told state television.
Under pressure to respond to the high-stakes incident near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Mr. Trump issued orders for retaliatory strikes, but then called it off.
The U.S. President had struck a combative tone in his public comments before rowing back. “Iran made a very big mistake!” he tweeted in response to news Iran had shot down the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft. “This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,” he said later at the White House.
Fears of open conflict
But as the pre-dawn incident whipped up fears of open conflict between the U.S. and its declared foe Iran, Mr. Trump moved swiftly to dial back tensions. “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Mr. Trump said.
Following the President’s mixed message, the U.S. special representative on Iran, Brian Hook, called on Friday for diplomacy.
“Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force,” he told reporters in Saudi Arabia. “Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy, not military force.”
Oil prices edged down slightly on Friday following the previous day’s surge that saw prices soar more than 6%, while the price of gold — seen as a safe haven asset — struck near six-year highs.
Iran said it had called in the Swiss Ambassador, whose country has represented U.S. interests since the severance of diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979, to issue a formal protest.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi provided the Ambassador with “indisputable” evidence the drone had violated Iranian airspace, the Foreign Ministry said.
Mr. Araghchi “reiterated that Iran does not seek a war and conflict in the Persian Gulf”, but warned: “The Islamic Republic of Iran would not hesitate for a moment to decisively defend its territory against any aggression.”
Iranian television later broadcast images of what it said was “debris” of the downed drone recovered from Iran’s territorial waters.
“The debris was floating. We recovered it from the sea inside our territorial waters,” a general said.
The Pentagon denounced the “unprovoked attack,” claiming the navy drone was 34 km from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.
It published a map showing the flight path of the drone, which indicated it travelled outside of Iranian waters and included a photograph showing coordinates when it was downed.
Mr. Zarif provided different coordinates for the downing of the drone by a domestically-manufactured Khordad 3 air defence battery. The drone downing came as Iran was already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on tankers in the congested shipping lanes heading out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran insists U.S. drone violated air space, vows to defend borders – The Hindu