Iranian jets fired on US drone in Gulf

2012-11-09 10:08

Washington - The Pentagon revealed on Thursday that two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed US Predator drone in the Gulf last week but the aircraft was not hit, in an incident that underscored tensions in the region.

The incident occurred on 1 November - less than a week before America's presidential election - but the Pentagon kept it quiet until reports of the confrontation leaked out.

"They intercepted the aircraft and fired multiple rounds," spokesperson George Little told a news conference.

The Su-25 Frogfoot fighters, much faster than the slow-moving turboprop drone, fired at least twice and made two passes, he said.

It was unclear whether the Iranians intended to warn off the unmanned drone but Little said: "Our working assumption is that they fired to take it down."

The confrontation threatened to derail diplomatic efforts to defuse a mounting crisis over Tehran's nuclear programme, amid a shadow war of cyber attacks, bombings and assassinations.

Routine surveillance

Tough new sanctions led by Washington are squeezing Iran's economy, while the United States and Israel are accused of staging cyber sabotage on Tehran's uranium enrichment plants.

The US military drone was "never in Iranian air space" and came under fire from the fighter jets off the Iranian coast over international waters, Little said.

The robotic Predator aircraft was conducting "routine surveillance" and the United States has told Iran it has no plans to suspend the flights, he said.

"The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters over the Arabian Gulf consistent with longstanding practice and our commitment to the security of the region," he said.

In a warning to Tehran, the Pentagon spokesperson said the United States was prepared to safeguard its forces.

"We have a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military, to protect our military assets and our forces in the region and will do so when necessary," Little said.

US military presence

The MQ-1 drone was pursued further by the Iranian warplanes but was not fired on again, he said.

The Predator later returned safely to an unspecified military base in the region following the incident.

The Predator - known as the weapon of choice in America's bombing campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan - was intercepted about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast, beyond the Islamic Republic's territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles off the country's shore.

Iranian military speedboats have sometimes swarmed US warships in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the world's oil, but the incident last week was the first involving an American drone in a confrontation with Iranian aircraft, officials said.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions prompted the United States to bolster its military presence around the Gulf over the past year, deploying two aircraft carrier battle groups in the area at all times, a squadron of stealthy F-22 fighters to the United Arab Emirates and more minesweeper ships.

With America's drawn out election campaign finally over, analysts had predicted President Barack Obama might have more leeway to pursue diplomacy with Iran. But the encounter with the Iranian fighter jets served as a reminder that a single incident or misunderstanding could trigger conflict.


A new round of talks between Iran and six world powers, the first since June, is expected by the end of the year or in early 2013.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and has made clear any deal with the major powers has to offer relief from crippling sanctions.

Israel meanwhile maintains time is running out as Iran expands its uranium enrichment work, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting his country may stage a unilateral strike next year if Tehran continues on its present course.

At the State Department, officials unveiled yet more sanctions on Iran, targeting the communications minister and the culture ministry among others for censoring the media and the internet.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 10:32

    Any country that names its weaponry, "the Predator" and "the Reaper", has little respect for life and suggests a fetish in death and killing.

      michael.taylorw - 2012-11-09 10:47

      Any country who's president sings, that sees no problem in his cronies singing songs that encourage shooting it's farmers have little respect for life, and suggest a natural inborn need to murder and kill on a whim.

      wesley.thompson.1671 - 2012-11-09 10:51

      What should they call it? The sunflower and the rainbow?

      arm.witmens - 2012-11-09 10:54

      what would you call it? The pap missle carrying mogudu flymachine?

      Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 10:57

      A more technical name would be better I think. Imagine a statement like this; \Reaper and Predator killed 12 children in Pakistan. It sounds like an evil computer game.

      Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 11:06

      By the way my example is not imaginary. Predator and Reaper are literally ripping thought women and children lives in Pakistan and Afghanistan as I type.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 11:11

      Or a reaper rips through a wedding party in Afghanistan, killing everyone!

      tasneem.sattar.5 - 2012-11-09 11:26

      clearly the intention for these weapons is not to kill pakistani children. sometimes in wars though, these sorts of unintended and undesired accidents happen, that's the nature of war unfortunately, its not a mistake unique to the US; these antagonistic, states like Iran are just as guilty of these incidents, if not more so (provoking the US, then using women and children as human shields is even worse, as this is intentional, making it plain evil, not just an unintended accident). All that aside though, I doubt that the way the news headlines will sound are going to be a significant concern to anyone (except maybe you, i guess) if 12 children were killed by one of these weapons. The intention is to indicate to threatening opponents that the weapon is a formidable one, and thus acts as a deterrent to discourage attacks, thus eliminating the potential for your Pakistani kids getting caught in crossfire altogether.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 11:42

      I genuinely can't get my head around the mentality that can class accidentally bombing weddings as 'collateral damage' and then wonder why the people of those countries hate you. Collateral damage (the killing of innocents) inevitably results in new generations of haters. Or are they supposed to just wait to be killed, content in the knowledge that their families' deaths will be for the greater good? It's a self defeating exercise that only benefits the war profiteers!

      Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 11:44

      @tasneem, I am not against a fight against terrorists. You can't send a brainless thing (predator) to go into a populated area and carry out missions, why not send soldiers into populated areas ? Soldiers have brains, they can differentiate between a terrorist and a child. This predator drone kills more civilians than terrorists. If you know Schwarzenegger predator movie then you will know what a predator is.

      tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-11-09 12:01

      You can't compare Irans foreign policy to Americas. Go look at a map of the middle east and observe the location of US military bases in the area. Now how can you tell me Iran are the aggressors? The warlike sanctions placed on Iran are just that, an act of war. These sanctions are crippling for everyone inside Iran mainly people like you and me. For what? So that Iran will never be a military threat? Why can't they, they have the right to defend themselves just like any other nation irrespective of weather you share their beliefs or think they are crazy. There is no evidence to suggest Iran is close to the bomb and even if they were I would not be surprised after all this Israeli aggression. Sometimes its good to put yourself in the 'enemy's' shoes and try understand their point of view instead of dehumanizing them.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-09 12:23

      Sibusiso - the drones have human controllers , they still rely on intellegience (info) and are far less invasive then ground operations . Look up the the 'stats' on they deaths , violence ,destruction and torture that these Taliban and other fundamentalists have caused (Pakistan), its staggering and its not just localalised .You dealing with people who are quite willing to sacriface themselves and (always) young people in suicde attacks, so ensuring a bevy of women and children as shields is not a stretch ergo relatively high civilian casualties . There are only two options , either you withdraw and let these guys take control who shoot girls in the face for wanting an education and bomb people on the trains of Mumbai or you resist and that means taking military action with the costs involved. How , why , where and when, that happens is debatable and critisizing these operations is important but i don't see a third option , what do you negotiate with people who want you dead (you can't be a little or mostly alive as concession).

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-09 20:01

      Tom, again, your prejudices are getting the better of you. Ever heard of defense? This is who the Iranian regime, distinct from the Iranian people, is: The Iranian regime adjusts elections to hold onto power. It has stolen the Iranian government from the Iranian people. It funds the Jihadist movement that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, mainly Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. It is supporting Bashar Assad's brutal oppression of Syrians wanting nothing more than the right to vote. It supports the stoning of women. It openly calls for the elimination of Israel and denies the Holocaust, the single biggest attempt at human genocide in human history: six million people exterminated. It is dishonest, highly repressive, and self-serving at the expense of the Iranian people and humanity. It's days are numbered, and it knows this.

  • gary.bloom.967 - 2012-11-09 10:34

    Always 3 sides to a story.

      evert.potgieter.16 - 2012-11-09 12:10

      Yours, mine and the Predator Drone's.

  • Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 10:47

    There are always three sides to any story. Maybe Iran should send their drone 16 miles away from Pearl Harbor and see if it won't get shot down.

  • arm.witmens - 2012-11-09 10:53

    "a squadron of stealthy F-22 fighters " - who are you writing this for?...a 6 yo?

      tasneem.sattar.5 - 2012-11-09 11:10

      lolz, i also tht that was quite a silly description...i think they probably meant F22 stealth fighter.

  • sarel.seemonster.925 - 2012-11-09 10:55

    Can't even shoot down a drone? Or perhaps the Iranian terrorists had compassion for the drone & did not want to infringe on its rights?

      Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 11:02

      December 2011 they downed the most sophisticated US drone with minimum damage and recently they sent a radar evading drone into Israel. I think those were just warning shots. I don't think Iran will be that stupid to provoke the US, that will be a suicide mission.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 11:08

      Well MSM would have people believe that the Iranians are suicidal!

      tasneem.sattar.5 - 2012-11-09 11:09

      " I don't think Iran will be that stupid to provoke the US" - lol, so what would you define as provocation then, how would you define everything else they've done up to now. don't be an idiot.

      Sibusiso - 2012-11-09 11:20

      Had they shot down the drone then the US has the right to retaliate by fire power under international law. Since they didn't cause any damage to the US property, diplomatic solutions can still be reached

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-09 12:00

      Fidel - the despot of Tehran invoking the end times and urging its coming in his address to the UN general assembly doesn't help with this concern or is calling on the end times standard practise ?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 12:11

      How should the world treat the Israeli principle of Masada and the 'Samson Option'. Should it be ignored?

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-09 13:28

      No at the same time nobody is threatening Irans existence . .

  • goldd.goldfinger - 2012-11-09 11:06

    "The Predator later returned safely to an unspecified military base in the region following the incident." Is the point of all these American bases across the world to facilitate its role as the Big brother of the world, maybe those funds could be put to a better and more productive use.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 11:14

      The emperor is just another emperor. Nice clothes, same mentality!

  • duncan.gill1 - 2012-11-09 11:16

    That this pentagon spokesman says " Our working assumption is that they fired to take it down." Shows once again how the hawks in the Pentagon seek war and only war..maybe because they feel invincible with their armed sickens me the depth to which the US has better than histories worst war mongering criminals.One day is one day the American people better get rid of this mentality in Washington or else they will find themselves on the wrong end of the international communities anger with dire consequences for them all!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 11:33

      The sensible question is why is it that the USA continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on defense 30 years after it is the sole superpower. George Orwell perfectly described the future of the world: endless War waged by the superpowers.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-09 12:02

      They have reduced the military spend from the mid 20th century quite significantly , they used to spend around 10% of GDP on the military and its between 4-5% now. You support tyrants and invoke Orwell , interesting.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-09 12:20

      Why is it a simplistic binary choice, echoes of Bush, 'your either with us or against us'! If the USA is the beacon of democracy and the moral argument has been won, why does it still need to spend so much money defending itself against those who have quite clearly lost the argument? It is the American government who are nothing but global tyrants and they will never leave anyone alone until they control all aspects of their lives.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-09 20:02

      Dunkie and Fidel: bellwethers for simple and wrong thinking.

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