Iran on Tuesday reported that it had captured a U.S. intelligence drone in its airspace over the gulf in the last few days, even though the U.S. military has quickly moved to deny losing any unmanned aircraft in the Middle East.
This incident came amidst rising tensions in the Gulf between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States as they both demonstrate their military capabilities in the vital oil exporting region in a dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, which is the shipping passageway to as much as 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne crude oil if it comes under attack; U.S. commanders have said that they will not allow that to occur.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said on its website that the ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Gulf in the last few days and was ‘captured’ when it strayed into Iranian airspace.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain said no U.S. drone had recently gone missing in the region.
“The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles (UAV) operating in the Middle East region. Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and airspace,” said Commander Jason Salata.
The Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had warned the U.S. over its violations and the drone had proven American incursions and it shall use this evidence to pursue its complaint “via international bodies”, IRIB News reported.
The IRGC statement, however, failed to specify when or where the drone was caught, or whether the unmanned plane crashed or had been shot down. but it did release what it said was a video of an apparently undamaged ScanEagle being examined by uniformed officers beneath a sign which read “We shall trample on the U.S” in English.
This incident is just the recent in a series of complaints by Iran over what it says are U.S. violations of its territory in an often stealthy conflict over Tehran’s nuclear program that has included assassinations, espionage and cyber sabotage.
The ScanEagle is a 4-ft (1.25-metre) long “off the shelf” spy plane manufactured by the American company, Boeing, which also supplies and operates drones for customers in several Middle Eastern countries. It is also involved to help ensure oil security in the Gulf, said information on its website.
Iran and OPEC rival, Saudi Arabia have also accused each other of encroaching upon each other’s territory near oil and gas fields in the Gulf over the past year.