In the footage, a trail of smoke could be seen as the unmanned U.S. Navy RQ-4 fell into “international waters” after it was brought down by an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surface-to-air missile fired from a location in the vicinity of Goruk, Iran, according to Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Both Iran and the United States confirmed that the shooting took place on June 19.
Iran defended its actions, saying that the drone was on a spy mission over its territory, but the Pentagon countered that the aircraft was in international airspace.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission,” Guastella said in a statement. “This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce.”
Guastella added that at the time the aircraft was “operating at high-altitude approximately 34 kilometers [about 21.1 miles] from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast.”
About 15 hours the aircraft was shot down, President Donald Trump issued a statement saying, “Iran made a very big mistake!”
Iran made a very big mistake!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2019
Trump later reiterated his comments to reporters at the White House during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 20, saying “This drone was in international waters, clearly. We have it all documented scientifically not just words. And they made a very bad mistake.”
“I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down. I have a feeling it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn’t have been doing what they did,” he added.
He warned that the United States “will not stand for it,” but also noted no American was hurt and characterized the incident as “a new wrinkle, a new fly in the ointment.”
“I find it hard to believe it was intentional if you want to know the truth,” he said. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid who did it.”
Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false.
This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace. “
– Attributable to Navy Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) June 20, 2019
It’s not clear if the downing of the drone would prompt military repercussions from the United States. Both Trump and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei previously said they don’t want war.
This incident follows the recent tension between the two countries after the United States accused Iran of the June 13 attacks of a pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The Trump administration has presented video evidence that seemingly implicates Tehran in the attacks, while Iran has denied having any role.
Moreover, the Iranian regime announced on June 17 that it would breach an internationally agreed limit on its stock of low-enriched uranium after 10 days. The Islamic regime added that it would only remain in the nuclear deal if its European signatories would step in to help the regime to circumvent the tight economic sanctions.
Petr Svab contributed to this report.