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US Navy Downs Iranian Drone in Strait of Hormuz, Tehran Denies

US Navy Downs Iranian Drone in Strait of Hormuz, Tehran Denies

Friday, 19 July, 2019 - 04:45
The USS Boxer ship sails near a tanker in the Arabian Sea off Oman July 17, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The United States Navy downed an Iranian drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz after the aircraft threatened the vessel, said President Donald Trump, a claim refuted by Tehran.

In the latest episode to stir tensions in the Gulf, Trump told an event at the White House that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (meters) of the USS Boxer and had ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”

“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests,” Trump said.

“The drone was immediately destroyed,” he added.

"The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce."

Iran on Friday said that all of its drones were safe at their bases.

"All drones belonging to Iran in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz ... returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control," Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior armed forces spokesman, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

"And there is no report of any operational response by USS Boxer."

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drone on Thursday was brought down through electronic jamming.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at the United Nations: “We have no information about losing a drone today.”

The apparent confrontation came as Iran defended its detention Sunday of a "foreign tanker" believed to be the Panamanian-flagged vessel Riah and its 12 crew for allegedly smuggling fuel.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had taken “defensive action” against a drone on Thursday morning as the Boxer was moving into the Strait of Hormuz.

“We do assess it was an Iranian drone,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

It was the first US military engagement with Iran following a series of increasingly serious incidents.

Tensions in the Gulf region are high, with fears that the United States and Iran could stumble into war.

The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery. Tehran rejects the allegations.

Iran in June shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile. Iran says the drone was in its airspace, but Washington says it was in international skies.

On July 4 Britain seized a fully loaded Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, allegedly headed for Syria in violation of sanctions.

Iran furiously branded the seizure "piracy, and one week later armed Iranian boats menaced a British tanker in the Gulf, before they were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate.

That led to US calls for an international flotilla to escort hydrocarbon-laden vessels from Gulf oil fields through the Hormuz Strait.

US Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie pledged Thursday to work "aggressively" with partners to ensure freedom of navigation in Gulf waters.

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