IRG: Downing Drone Sends ‘Clear Message’; U.S.: Shoot-Down ‘Unprovoked Attack’

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami. (Sepahnews via AP)

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday that the shooting down of a U.S. drone has sent “a clear message” to America. Gen. Hossein Salami also said that Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war.”

His speech was carried live on Iranian state media on Thursday, shortly after U.S. and Iranian officials acknowledged the shooting down of the drone.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry also warned the U.S. over violating Iranian airspace.

A ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying that Iran cannot condone the “illegal trespassing and invading of the country’s skies by any kind of foreign flying object.” Mousavi expressed Iran’s “strong objection” and added that the “invaders will bear full responsibility.”

The IRG said it shot down the American drone over Iranian airspace, while U.S. officials told The Associated Press the downing happened over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz.

The different accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

In recent weeks, the U.S. has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. From Yemen, the Houthis have launched bomb-laden drones into neighboring Saudi Arabia.

All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution. Thursday’s drone incident marks the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on the U.S. amid the crisis.

U.S. officials told the AP that the Iranians fired a surface-to-air missile striking the American drone. The officials said the incident happened over the Strait of Hormuz in international airspace. The strait is the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all global oil moves.

The U.S. military confirmed on Thursday that one of its drones was shot down but said the incident took place in international airspace, challenging Iran‘s account that the U.S. aircraft had been flying over Iranian territory.

Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command.

“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

He said the shoot-down took place in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.