- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Iran shot down an American drone late Wednesday in an “unprovoked attack” over international waters, U.S. military officials said, in an incident that ratchets up tensions in the Middle East even higher.

In a statement Thursday morning, U.S. Central Command confirmed that an American RQ-4A Global Hawk drone was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz, a key international shipping channel. Military officials denied claims from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that the aircraft crossed into Iranian airspace.

“U.S. Central Command can confirm that a U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019,” CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement. “Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Iranian officials quickly seized on the incident to boast that the country is prepared for a military confrontation with the U.S.

“We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully ready for war,” Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami said in a televised address.



“Borders are our red line,” he added. “Any enemy that violates the borders will be annihilated.”

The Trump administration earlier this year officially designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization — the first time the U.S. used such a label for another country’s military force.

In shooting down the drone, Iran has escalated tensions for at least the third time in just one week.

Late last week, Iran allegedly used limpet mines to target two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. Navy has released photos, video and physical evidence that it says proves Iran was responsible for the attacks.

Days later, top Iranian officials said their uranium stockpiles will soon break the threshold laid out in a multinational 2015 deal to limit their nuclear program — an agreement President Trump pulled the U.S. out of last year.

Against that backdrop, Wednesday’s incident adds to an already volatile situation as lawmakers and analysts fear Washington and Tehran are on an inevitable collision course.

Iran also fired on an American drone last week as the aircraft was conducting surveillance over the Gulf of Oman following the oil tanker attacks.

It seems the U.S. drone hit on Wednesday also was conducting surveillance near the Strait of Hormuz, a channel through which roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.

The passage has taken on an even greater significance after the U.S. in April imposed a global oil embargo on Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations promised to make up the difference in global oil supplies, and much of that oil will flow through the Strait.

Thursday’s incident is not the first time Iran apparently shot down an American drone. In 2011, Iranian forces said they downed an American RQ-170 Sentinel after it crossed into the country’s airspace.

In a separate incident Thursday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen reportedly fired missiles at a power plant in Saudi Arabia. Iranian proxy forces have been battling a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since 2015.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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