Either it was or it wasn’t in international airspace and we’ll probably never know which, but what we do know is that Donald Trump has succeeded in irritating the Iranians to the point that the IRGC is willing to shoot down US drones.
“We will defend Iran’s airspace and maritime boundaries with all our might”, Ali Shamkhani, secretary for the Supreme National Security Council said Thursday, after the country shot down what it described as a “spying” drone in the country’s southeastern province of Hormozgan.
The aircraft, a US Navy high-altitude drone, was struck by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz, AP said. US Central Command would later insist that US aircraft were flying in international airspace only. “No US aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today”, Bill Urban, a spokesman for Centcom claimed.
The IRGC is pretty excited about this, as you can imagine. “[We’ll] react strongly against any assault to the country”, Hossein Salami said, adding that the country’s borders are “a red line”. The Guards said the aircraft was a Northrop Grumman-made RQ-4 Global Hawk.
As far as whether Iran wants to go to war with anybody, Salami said Tehran isn’t looking for a fight, but “today’s incidence sends a clear message.” He also repeated the claim that the drone was in Iranian airspace.
The incident occurred not far from the site of last week’s attacks on two oil tankers, which the US continues to insist the IRGC perpetrated.
Oil is obviously higher and this will be a real test of whether jitters around global growth and swelling US supplies are enough to offset geopolitical jitters when it comes to keeping a lid on prices.
The drone news started to filter in just hours after the Houthis hit a power station in Saudi Arabia with a cruise missile.
The Saudis later said the missile landed next to a desalination plant and didn’t cause any actual damage, let alone any casualties. Trump was briefed on that incident late Wednesday. “[This is] a significant cause for concern and puts innocent lives at risk”, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Rebecca Rebarich remarked.
This is two incidents in one day, and, again, you’re encouraged to consider that in addition to coming just a week after the incident in Gulf of Oman, the downing of a US drone and the latest Houthi pot shot at the Saudis are set against Iran’s Monday announcement that the country will be in violation of key elements of the nuclear accord by next week.
Trump’s foreign policy is exacerbating all of this. His unwavering support for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the face of international pressure following the Jamal Khashoggi killing and, more germane for the situation at hand, the president’s decision to veto a bipartisan resolution aimed at halting US support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, are ostensibly aimed at ensuring that Washington retains a key ally in the effort to isolate Iran and curtail the Quds’ regional influence, but it’s backfiring.
The Senate is set to vote today on halting arms sales to Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates citing human rights concerns, and those concerns are amplified by Wednesday’s UN report that revealed more of the gruesome details around Khashoggi’s death and recommended sanctions against Prince Mohammed as well as additional credible investigations. Were it not for Trump’s steadfast refusal to fault the Crown Prince, he might not be getting so much pushback on the Hill when it comes to arms deals with the Sunni power, which is leading the effort to oust the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
At the same time, it is now abundantly clear that Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the nuclear accord was a bad idea. Additionally, the effort to cut off funding to the Quds has clearly been ineffective at discouraging Iran’s proxies and Washington’s decision to designate the IRGC a terrorist group not only inflamed tensions, but sets the stage for Trump’s war hawks to claim a terrorist organization shot down a US drone.
John Bolton and Mike Pompeo will doubtlessly have all manner of ominous-sounding things to say about the drone situation. At this point, a targeted airstrike on Iran doesn’t seem far-fetched – at all.
Remember, over the past 30 days alone, the US has deployed or announced an intent to deploy, some 2,500 troops to the region for “defensive” purposes in the face of Iranian “aggression”.