Tehran denies US claims of shooting down Iranian drone, Washington cites ‘very clear evidence’

The US military shot down an Iranian drone on Thursday that came within 1,000 yards of one of its naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, President Donald Trump said. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Tehran denies US claims of shooting down Iranian drone, Washington cites ‘very clear evidence’

  • Donald Trump claims a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz
  • But Tehran says it has not lost any drone

WASHINGTON: Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi denied on Friday having lost any drone recently and hinted that the US could have downed their own “by mistake” on his Twitter account.  

“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 by mistake!” Araghchi tweeted, after the United States claimed it downed an unmanned Iranian aircraft.

However, the US said it will destroy any Iranian drones that fly too closely to its ships and that it has “very clear evidence" that it shot down such a drone, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday.

“If they fly too close to our ships, they’ll continue to be shot down,” the official told reporters at a briefing. 

Iran’s armed forces also denied that the US had downed one of their drones, saying all such aircraft had “safely returned” to their bases, Tasnim news agency reported.

“Despite (US President Donald) Trump’s baseless and delusional claims, all of (Iran’s) drones... have safely returned to their bases,” said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also said on Friday they would release images to disprove US President Donald Trump’s assertion that the US Navy has destroyed an Iranian drone in the Gulf, Iranian news agencies reported.

“Soon, images captured by the Guards drones from the U.S. warship Boxer will be published to expose to world public opinion as lies and groundless the claim ... of shooting down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz,” the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement carried by news agencies.

Trump on Thursday said that a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it threatened the ship.

In remarks at the White House, Trump blamed Iran for a “provocative and hostile” action and said the US responded in self-defense.

He said the Navy’s USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took defensive action after the Iranian aircraft closed to within 1,000 yards of the ship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.

“The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” Trump said.

The Pentagon said the incident happened at 10 a.m. local time Thursday in international waters while the Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Arabian Gulf. The Boxer is among several US Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the nearby North Arabian Sea for weeks.

“A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a written statement. “The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”


Trump dampens Macron optimism on Iran talks

Updated 45 min 34 sec ago

Trump dampens Macron optimism on Iran talks

  • Macron has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the region
  • Trump says he hasn't discussed a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran

BIARRITZ, France: US President Donald Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran on Sunday, saying that while he was happy for President Emmanuel Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Macron, who has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the region, had told LCI television that the G7 had agreed on joint action on Iran.
The French presidency said G7 leaders had even agreed that Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran after they discussed the issue over dinner at a summit in southwestern France on Saturday evening.
However, Trump, who has pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, pushed back.
Asked if he had signed off on a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran, Trump said:
“I haven’t discussed this. No I haven’t,” he told reporters, adding that Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were free to talk to Iran.
“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Macron, who has taken the lead to defuse tensions fearing that a collapse of the nuclear deal could set ablaze the Middle East, met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday. The aim was to discuss proposals that could ease the crisis, including the idea of reducing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism.
Macron appeared to backtrack on his own team’s comments later, saying there was no formal mandate from the G7 leaders to pass a message to Iran.
Highlighting just how difficult agreeing on concrete measures between allies is, Macron said the leaders’ views had converged on not wanting Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb and ensuring peace and security in the Middle East.
He was supposed to discuss those ideas with Trump on the sidelines of the G7, which also comprises Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU.
“Everyone wants to avoid a conflict, Donald Trump was extremely clear on that point,” Macron told LCI.
“We have to continue to take initiatives and in the coming weeks that on the one hand there are no more Iranian decisions that contradict this objective and that we open new negotiations,” Macron said without giving details.
In response to the tougher US sanctions and what it says is the inability of European powers party to the deal — France, Britain and Germany, to compensate it for its lost oil revenue, Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
The United States has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it is unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron wants to offer Iran given at this stage a proposed trade channel for humanitarian and food exchanges with Iran is still not operational.
Macron has also said that in return for any concessions he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile program and regional activities.