Iran shoots down American military drone amid heightening tensions between Washington and Tehran

"Iran made a very big mistake," President Donald Trump tweeted after news broke of the incident

By Matthew Rozsa

Published June 20, 2019 11:51AM (EDT)


Amid heightening tensions between Washington and Tehran, Iran's Revolutionary Guard claims it shot down an "intruding American spy drone" that allegedly trespassed on its territory ⁠— a move which President Donald Trump has called "a very big mistake."

An American official acknowledged to CNN that a U.S. drone had been shot down but claimed that the incident, in fact, occurred over international airspace. Specifically, the official said the drone was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz, which is an important shipping route.

The two sides also disagreed over the exact type of drone that was shot down. While an American official told CNN that it was a MQ-4C Triton, Iran's Revolutionary Guard claimed it was a RQ-4 Global Hawk. Both are unmanned surveillance aircraft, and each is manufactured by the same company: Northrop Grumman.

The head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps said Iran does "not want war with any country, but we are completely and totally ready and prepared for war," according to CNN.

CENTCOM told the Associate Press that "Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," and "this was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace." Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that "Iran made a very big mistake."

The Trump administration has taken a more hawkish approach toward Iran than that of its predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who signed the Iran nuclear deal in the hope of neutralizing a potential threat. Earlier this week, the Trump administration authorized the deployment of 1,000 new troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.

Last month, during an appearance on "Fox & Friends," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that "the previous administration took a different path. They underwrote that government, giving them hundreds of billions of dollars and the ability to put the terror team in place that we're seeing today — the very terror threat that we're facing. President Trump's taken a very different course of action. We are determined to stop not only their nuclear program — and from them ever getting a nuclear weapon — but to prevent them from building up their missile program and conducting terror campaigns."

He added, "Without getting into specifics, you can be sure that President Trump will ensure that we have all the resources necessary to respond in the event that the Islamic Republic of Iran should decide to attack Americans; or American interests; or some of our great soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines who are serving in that region; or the diplomats serving in Iraq or elsewhere."

Trump himself has also feuded with members of the intelligence community who have parted ways with him on the issue of Iranian policy.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!" Trump tweeted in January.

Former CIA chief John Brennan responded to Trump by tweeting, "Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy. All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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