Trump warns Iran it ‘made big mistake’ shooting down US drone over Strait of Hormuz

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A 3 Khordad system, which is said to had been used to shoot down a US drone, according to IRINN, is being launched in this screen grab taken from an undated video. (IRINN/Reuters TV via Reuters)
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Above, a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk. A similar one was shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missile on Thursday. (AP)
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A map released by the Department of Defense shows the location where the drone was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. (Department of Defense)
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Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 June 2019
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Trump warns Iran it ‘made big mistake’ shooting down US drone over Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran says it has ‘indisputable’ evidence US drone violated its airspace
  • US military’s Central Command called the downing an ‘unprovoked attack’

DUBAI: Donald Trump warned Iran it had made a ‘very big mistake’ in shooting down a US drone near the Strait of Hormuz Thursday.

The US said the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone was shot down in international airspace near the shipping lane through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes. 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed the drone had been shot down in  Iranian airspace.

The US military‘s Central Command released a statement calling the downing an “unprovoked attack.”

The RQ-4A Global Hawk is used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions. (File/AP)

“They made a very big mistake,” Trump said. “This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.” The US president also raised some doubt over who ordered the strike saying: “I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.”

But he added that it would have been far more serious had it been a piloted aircraft. “We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference,” he said.

The Trump administration called top congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing later on Thursday.

The incident is the latest in a string of provocations blamed on Tehran as tensions with the US continue to increase. On Wednesday, the US said it had intelligence that proved “without question” that Iran had attacked two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week after they passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, said Iran had created a grave situation with its “aggressive behavior” and the Kingdom was consulting other Gulf Arab states on next steps.

“When you interfere with international shipping it has an impact on the supply of energy, it has an impact on the price of oil which has an impact on the world economy. It essentially affects almost every person on the globe,” Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters in London.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and Al-Jubeir said any attempt to do so would provoke a “very, very strong reaction.”

Bahrain, which hosts a base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, described the incident as “a cowardly act of aggression.”

The CENTCOM statement said the maritime surveillance drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” CENTCOM said, adding that “this was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The drone was downed at approximately 2335 GMT - in the early morning hours of local time in the Gulf.

The IRGC, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed it shot down the drone when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province, close to the Strait of Hormuz.

“Borders are our red line,” IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami said. “Any enemy that violates the borders will be annihilated.”

Iran said Friday that it had “indisputable” evidence that a US drone it shot down this week had violated its airspace.

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told Swiss ambassador, Markus Leitner, whose country represents US interests in Iran, of the evidence on Thursday night, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Even some parts of the drone’s wreckage have been retrieved from Iran’s territorial waters,” Araghchi told the Swiss envoy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for caution, warning any war between Iran and the US would be a “catastrophe for the region as a minimum.”

The RQ-4 Global Hawk, which cost over $100 million apiece and can fly higher than 10 miles in altitude and stay in the air for over 24 hours at a time. They have a distinguishable hump-shaped front and an engine atop. Their wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 737 passenger jet.

The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and Iran following Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The US has ramped up sanctions that have drastically reduced Tehran’s oil exports as it moves to isolate Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program and role in regional wars.

Since mid-May, explosive strikes blamed on Iran have hit six oil tankers. The US has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already in the region.

Global jitters about a new Middle East conflagration disrupting oil exports have triggered a jump in crude prices. They surged by more than $3 to above $63 a barrel on Thursday.

Iran has claimed to have shot down American drones in the past. In the most-famous incident, in December 2011, Iran seized an RQ-170 Sentinel flown by the CIA to monitor Iranian nuclear sites after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan.

*With AP and Reuters 


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 42 min 46 sec ago
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.