The government of Iran has denied reports that the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone this week in the Strait of Hormuz, contradicting claims by the U.S. military and President Donald Trump that an enemy drone had been destroyed.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, tweeted early Friday. “I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [unmanned aerial system] by mistake!”
That tweet was later echoed by an Iranian military leader who called President Trump a liar and insisted that the country’s drones were all accounted for on Friday.
“Unlike Trump’s delusional and groundless claim, all drones belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one mentioned by the U.S. president, have returned to their bases safe and sound after carrying out their scheduled surveillance and control operations,” Iranian Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state-controlled news channel Press TV.
President Trump opened a press event at the White House on Thursday with an announcement that the U.S. Navy had taken “defensive action” against a drone that had gotten within 1,000 yards of the amphibious assault ship, the USS Boxer. Trump claimed that the drone “ignored multiple calls to stand down” and was “threatening the safety of the ship” before it was destroyed. Trump did not specify how the drone was destroyed, though some reports have suggested it was brought down using radio signal jamming.
“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” said Trump. “The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
The Pentagon made a similar announcement yesterday, saying that the incident occurred around 10 am local time, but unlike the president’s announcement, it did not specify which country’s drone it had targeted.
“A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement posted to the U.S. Department of Defense’s website. “The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has suggested that it may release video to prove that one of its drones was not taken down, though it’s not immediately clear how any video could show such a thing.
Back in June, Iran shot down a U.S. drone that it said was in Iranian airspace near the Kuhmobarak village in Hormozgan province. The U.S. said that the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. President Trump bragged at the time that he hadn’t attacked Iran over the incident, but tensions continue to mount in the region as the rest of the world watches a dangerous tit-for-tat play out.
Iran seized a Panamanian tanker and its 12 crew on Sunday over allegations that it was “smuggling” fuel. Press TV released footage of the seizure overnight and patrol boats can be seen circling the ship, and the UK has called for a de-escalation of provocations in the region.
President Trump has claimed that he doesn’t want to start a war with Iran, but that’s somewhat contradicted by the fact that he’s placed some of the most bloodthirsty people on the planet in top positions within his government. Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, has previously called for countries like North Korea and Iran to be bombed.
Bolton even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in March of 2015 titled, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton was also highly critical of President Barack Obama’s so-called Iran Deal, which limited the amount of uranium enrichment that Iran could do in exchange for the unfreezing of some Iranian assets that were in U.S. banks. While it was Iran’s money that was simply unfrozen, President Trump has repeatedly characterized the deal as “paying” Iran billions of dollars. Iran has now pledged to enrich uranium at a much faster pace, putting it on track to develop a nuclear bomb in the coming years.
Trump pulled out of the Iran Deal and now whines that the country isn’t doing what he wants. And while the president may sincerely want to avoid a war with Iran (at least until the 2020 election is over) then he’s not doing a very good job of it.
Update, 12:36pm: State-run Press TV just published three videos on Twitter that purport to show the USS Boxer from an aerial view in the Strait of Hormuz. But the videos don’t provide any definitive proof that the drone returned to base. It’s entirely possible that this video was livestreamed and captured by Iran before the drone was downed by U.S. forces.
You can see the videos for yourself below.
Correction: This article originally stated that the drone reportedly came within 100 yards of the USS Boxer. It was within 1,000 yards. Gizmodo regrets the error.