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.”


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 24 min 13 sec ago

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.