Iran Says Revolutionary Guard Shoots Down US Drone

June 20, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it shot down a U.S. drone.

The reported shootdown of the RQ-4 Global Hawk comes after the U.S. military previously alleged Iran fired a missile at another drone last week that responded to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blames Iran for the attack on the ships, which Tehran denies.

The Panama-flagged, Japanese owned oil tanker Kokuka Courageous
The Panama-flagged, Japanese owned oil tanker Kokuka Courageous, that the U.S. Navy says was damaged by a limpet mine, is anchored off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, during a trip organized by the Navy for journalists June 19, 2019. (Fay Abuelgasim/AP)

The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran following the withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers a year ago. The White House separately said it was aware of reports of a missile strike on Saudi Arabia amid a campaign targeting the kingdom by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran recently has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, announcing on June 17 that it would breach the internationally-agreed limit under the existing 2015 nuclear deal on its low-enriched uranium in 10 days.

In recent weeks, the United States has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops to the region.

Mysterious attacks have targeted oil tankers, while Houthi rebels have launched bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.

All this has raised fears that a further rise in tensions could push the United States and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution.

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 near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) southeast of Tehran and is close to the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, citing the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, declined to immediately comment when asked if an American drone was shot down.

However, he told The Associated Press: “There was no drone over Iranian territory.”

A later ABC report, which said that the drone was a U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton, cited a U.S. official who said that the drown “was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile while the reconnaissance drone was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday.”

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump had been “briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies,” Sanders said.

The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel claimed the rebels targeted a power plant in Jizan, near the kingdom’s border with Yemen, with a cruise missile. Saudi state media and officials did not immediately report a missile strike Thursday.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the conflict.