The Pentagon reported that an unarmed US drone was shot at while flying over international air space, 16 miles off the coast of Iran. The US drone, pursued by Iranian aircraft last week, prompted a statement from Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi Friday morning. He confirmed the involvement of the Iranian Air Force in the incident. Last week the Iranian Labor News Agency reported the aircraft as “unidentified.”
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little offerred the following statement in a report by the American Forces Press Service:
“I can confirm that on November 1, at approximately 4:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, an unarmed, unmanned MQ-1 U.S. military aircraft conducting routine surveillance over the Arabian Gulf, was intercepted by an Iranian SU-25 Frog-foot aircraft and was fired upon with guns.”
While the area described is technically international airspace, the Iranians claim the aircraft entered their territory. After being shot at twice and pursued briefly, the Iranian aircrafts backed down and the US drone returned to base safely. The Pentagon insisted that they would continue business as usual in the region, and the US “will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters, over the Arabian Gulf, consistent with longstanding practices and our commitment to the security of the region.”
The American government issued a formal warning to Iran through international diplomatic channels, although Mr. Little stopped short of labeling it an act of war.
The incident occurred amongst already high tensions between America and Iran over their nuclear program and American sanctions. It also serves as a reminder that President Obama will have a lot on his plate in the coming months and years regarding foreign policy and, especially, relations with Iran.