First Published: 2012-11-09

 

Washington: Iran warplanes fired on US drone in Gulf

 

Pentagon reveals Iran’s Su-25 Frogfoot fighters fired on US Predator drone over Inrenational waters.

 

Middle East Online

By Dan De Luce - WASHINGTON

The Pentagon revealed Thursday that two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed US Predator drone in the Gulf last week but the aircraft was not hit, in an incident that underscored tensions in the region.

The incident occurred on November 1 -- less than a week before America's presidential election -- but the Pentagon kept it quiet until reports of the confrontation leaked out.

"They intercepted the aircraft and fired multiple rounds," spokesman George Little told a news conference.

The Su-25 Frogfoot fighters, much faster than the slow-moving turboprop drone, fired at least twice and made two passes, he said.

It was unclear whether the Iranians intended to warn off the unmanned drone but Little said: "Our working assumption is that they fired to take it down."

The confrontation threatened to derail diplomatic efforts to defuse a mounting crisis over Tehran's nuclear program, amid a shadow war of cyberattacks, bombings and assassinations.

Tough new sanctions led by Washington are squeezing Iran's economy, while the United States and Israel are accused of staging cyber sabotage on Tehran's uranium enrichment plants.

The US military drone was "never in Iranian air space" and came under fire from the fighter jets off the Iranian coast over international waters, Little said.

The robotic Predator aircraft was conducting "routine surveillance" and the United States has told Iran it has no plans to suspend the flights, he said.

"The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters over the Arabian Gulf consistent with longstanding practice and our commitment to the security of the region," he said.

In a warning to Tehran, the Pentagon spokesman said the United States was prepared to safeguard its forces.

"We have a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military, to protect our military assets and our forces in the region and will do so when necessary," Little said.

The MQ-1 drone was pursued further by the Iranian warplanes but was not fired on again, he said.

The Predator later returned safely to an unspecified military base in the region following the incident that occurred at 4:50 am US eastern standard time (0850 GMT).

The Predator -- known as the weapon of choice in America's bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan -- was intercepted about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast, beyond the Islamic Republic's territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles off the country's shore.

Iranian military speedboats have sometimes swarmed US warships in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the world's oil, but the incident last week was the first involving an American drone in a confrontation with Iranian aircraft, officials said.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions prompted the United States to bolster its military presence around the Gulf over the past year, deploying two aircraft carrier battle groups in the area at all times, a squadron of stealthy F-22 fighters to the United Arab Emirates and more minesweeper ships.

With America's drawn out election campaign finally over, analysts had predicted President Barack Obama might have more leeway to pursue diplomacy with Iran. But the encounter with the Iranian fighter jets served as a reminder that a single incident or misunderstanding could trigger conflict.

A new round of talks between Iran and six world powers, the first since June, is expected by the end of the year or in early 2013.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has made clear any deal with the major powers has to offer relief from crippling sanctions.

Israel meanwhile maintains time is running out as Iran expands its uranium enrichment work, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting his country may stage a unilateral strike next year if Tehran continues on its present course.

At the State Department, officials unveiled yet more sanctions on Iran, targeting the communications minister and the culture ministry among others for censoring the media and the Internet.

 

Palestinians protest one year after teenager burned alive

Fighting rages in Yemen’s Aden

Egypt government adopts anti-terror law

British FM: 'No breakthrough yet' in Iran nuclear talks

Iraq Christians train for jihad against IS

Egypt vows to wipe out 'dens of terror'

Tunisia arrests eight in connection with beach massacre

Youth in Tunisia 'ripe for radicalisation'

UN sends mission to 'assess' South Sudan atrocities

Syria urges citizens to enlist

AQAP step up campaign to eradicate qat

UN imposes first sanctions on six South Sudan generals

Libya rival governments will not return to peace talks

Kurds warn Turkey against any ‘aggression’ in Syria

Kuwait makes DNA tests mandatory after suicide bombing

Kuwait parliament approves deficit budget on oil slide

Pro-Erdogan candidate becomes new speaker of Turkey parliament

‘War’ in Sinai Peninsula as clashes with ISIS fighters rage on

All 38 victims of Tunisia beach massacre identified

36 killed in wave of IS attack on Egyptian soldiers

Iran vs. Israel gets cartoon treatment

IAEA chief to fly to Iran for nuclear talks

Saudi prince pledges fortune to charity

Syria Kurds regain full control of Tal Abyad

Palestinian PM to make 'temporary' cabinet reshuffle

20 civilians killed in rebel fire on Yemen's Aden

Iran nuclear talks go into extra time

Gulf states urged to follow Kuwait on maid rights

Yemen rebels free 1,200 prisoners

Negotiators extend deadline for Iran nuclear talks

‘Islamic State’ re-enters Syria border town of Tal Abyad

Defiant tourists stay in Tunisia

Deadly clashes rage on in eastern Libya

Only mobile phone company in Gaza closed by Hamas

Zarif keeps cards close to chest as he meets Kerry

Orange reaches deal with Israel's Partner after spat

Kuwait in ‘state of war’ after mosque suicide bombing

Iranians take to streets of Tehran to demand ‘good nuclear deal’

Turkey 'ready to help' Greece out of economic crisis

Sisi pledges tougher laws against militants after prosecutor killing

French prosecutor confirms IS link to factory beheading

Tunisia ‘was not prepared’ for beach massacre

Tunisia makes first beach massacre arrests

Tunisia attack set to wipe $500 million off economy

IS beheads two female ‘sorcerers’ in Syria