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.

 

OPEC agrees deal to cut oil output

US Congress overrides Obama's veto of Saudi 9/11 bill

UN warns 'hundreds' in Aleppo need medical evacuation

Amnesty accuses Sudan of using chemical arms against Darfur civilians

Palestinian president to attend Peres funeral

UN warns 700,000 will need aid once Mosul offensive starts

Saudi seeks oil leadership in economic pinch

Egypt court suspends block on island transfer to Saudi

Bid for international Yemen war probe fails at UN

King Abdullah visits home of murdered writer

Bahrain says 9/11 bill will harm US

9/11 bill puts US, Saudi cooperation in question

UN envoy says Syria talks 'very difficult with bombs falling'

Erdogan says Moody's was 'bought' after downgrade

Erdogan: Turkey may need state of emergency for more than a year

Iraqi activist wins Norway rights prize

Kidnapped German woman, baby freed in Syria

Turkey stops Kurdish TV broadcasts

A year of bombing in Syria triggers limited interest in Russia

Obama defends refusal to use military force to end Syria civil war

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump

Iranian, Italian ships hold manoeuvres in Strait of Hormuz

Gunmen kill three Egypt policemen, civilian in Sinai

Turkey says 32,000 coup suspects awaiting trial

Paris to host international meeting on Libya

Etihad plane in emergency landing in Abu Dhabi

Struggling Saudi Oger lays off 1,300 staff

Israel ex-PM to serve 27 months for graft

Syrian kids return to school in Manbij

World Bank releases $300 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan

UN Libya envoy warns against ‘political impasse’

Iranian FM in Ankara for Syria talks

Syrian army retakes rebel-held Aleppo district

Israeli ex-president Peres dies

Oil prices post marginal gains

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault