Recent tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran may have reached a tipping point after U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that an unmanned RQ-4A Global Hawk drone was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
The U.S.reconnaissance drone was flying in international airspace when it was downed by an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile at approximately 7.35 p.m. Eastern time, June 19. The IRGC commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, issued a statement saying the interception of the drone sends a “decisive, firm and accurate message” to the U.S.:
“The message is that the guardians of the borders of Islamic Iran will decisively respond to the violation of any stranger to this land. The only solution for the enemies is to respect the territorial integrity and national interests of Iran.”
The Iranians claim the drone was shot down after it entered Iranian airspace, but in response to Gen. Salami’s statement, CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban said: “Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false.” He added that “this was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”
The uneasy relationship between Iran and the U.S. has steadily deteriorated since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – an agreement signed in 2015 by Iran, the United States, and five other nations. The deal was touted as a measure to ensure the Islamic Republic would not produce or acquire the materials required to build nuclear weapons, but Trump had been an unrelenting critic of it.
Though the JCPOA was supposed to enforce oversight, critics have argued that Iran has for years flouted the terms of the agreement, though the United Nations and supporters of the deal have often claimed that Iran has operated within the terms. The principal weakness of the JCPOA was that it contained certain “sunset” clauses due to expire after a period of time, meaning the deal was not a permanent solution.
More recently, the situation in the Middle East had deteriorated after two oil tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz. Though Iran denied it carried out the attacks, the U.S. has claimed Iranian forces were responsible – releasing video footage of IRGC personnel removing an unexploded mine from the hull of one of the tankers after the attack. A U.S. drone surveilling the tanker attack was also fired upon, though it was not hit. Iran had also denied trying to shoot down the drone.
“We do not intend to engage in war with any country,” Salami added in his statement on the June 19 drone incident, “but we are completely ready for the war. Today’s incident is a clear sign of this accurate message.”
The president tweeted that Iran had made “a big mistake” by shooting down the drone and, although both the U.S. and Iran have publicly attempted, in recent days, to back away from the prospect of war, it seems as though some form of military action by the U.S. is likely if it can be confirmed that the downed drone was indeed flying in international airspace.
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