President Trump says the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone that was threatening the USS Boxer Naval ship in the Strait of Hormuz. AP
Iran denied Friday it lost a drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the United States said it had “destroyed” an Iranian drone that was threatening a U.S. ship.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) by mistake!,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Twitter.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted military spokesman Gen. Abolfazl Shekari as saying that “all Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one which the U.S. president mentioned, after carrying out scheduled identification and control missions, have returned to their bases.”
The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic waterway for the seaborne transportation of about a fifth of the world’s global crude oil exports.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the drone was threatening a U.S. ship and was “immediately destroyed.” He said the drone came within 1,000 yards and ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”
“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” the president said. “The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests.”
He called on other countries to condemn Iran’s “attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
“I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the strait and to work with us in the future,” Trump said.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, was in international waters in the Strait at roughly 10 a.m. local time when a drone approached and “closed within a threatening range.”
“The ship took defensive action against the (drone) to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew,” he said.
The apparent downing of the drone followed Iran’s apparent seizure of an oil tanker, the nation’s state media announced Thursday. Twelve crew members were on the Panamanian-flagged vessel when it was taken near the Strait of Hormuz. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful organization with links to the military and business, said the tanker tried to smuggle a million liters of oil.
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Tensions have escalated since the United States pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed sweeping economic sanctions.
Iran shot down a U.S. drone in June, claiming it had violated Iranian airspace, an assertion U.S. officials said was false. The president pulled back on a planned retaliatory strike against Iranian targets at the last minute. U.S. officials at the time cautioned the move should not be interpreted as weakness.
“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said during a trip to Jerusalem. “No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. As President Trump said Friday, our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go.”
On Tuesday, Trump’s nominee to be the next defense secretary, Army Secretary Mark Esper, told lawmakers the United States is pursuing a strategy of “passive patrolling” in the area with coalition partners as part of an initiative dubbed “Operation Sentinel.”
He said the goal was to deter further provocative actions by Iran.
“At the same time, from the highest levels of government from the president himself, we said we will meet anytime, anywhere, without precondition to discuss issues with the Iranians to get us on the diplomatic path,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Minster Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in New York on Thursday that Iran would offer a deal to the U.S. in which it would offer it enhanced inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for the permanent lifting of economic sanctions.
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