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Iran almost shot down US Navy plane with 35 crew as ‘message’ to US

A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 flies over the Chesapeake Bay. VX-20 is part of Naval Test Wing Atlantic. (Greg L. Davis/U.S. Navy)
June 21, 2019

An Iranian general said Iran decided not to shoot down a U.S. Navy plane with a crew of 35, opting instead to shoot down a nearby U.S. Navy drone, as a warning to the United States.

Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh claimed the U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone and nearby Navy P-8 aircraft were violating Iran’s airspace, prompting Iran to shoot down the drone as a warning to the American “terrorists,” according to Iranian state media Fars News Agency on Friday.

“We intended to send a message to American terrorists in the region,” Hajizadeh said.

“Along with the American drone was an American P8 aircraft with 35 on board, and it was also violating our airspace and we could have downed it too,” he said, adding, “But we did not do it, because our aim was to warn the terrorist forces of the U.S.”

Hajizadeh is the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, which shot down the U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz early Thursday.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted on Twitter on Thursday to say that Iran had collected pieces of the drone, also claiming it was shot down because it violated Iran’s airspace.

“[The] U.S. drone took off from UAE in stealth mode and violated Iranian airspace,” Zarif wrote, noting that the drone “was targeted near… [the] Kouh-e Mobarak region in the Central district of Jask, in Hormuzgan province, after the aircraft violated Iran’s airspace.”

“We’ve retrieved sections of the U.S. military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down,” he added.

In a previous tweet, Zarif insisted, “We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters. We’ll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters.”

IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami also reiterated that shooting down the drone was a message to the U.S. for violating Iran’s borders.

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“Borders are our red lines and any enemy which violates them will not go back home and will be annihilated. The only way for enemies is to respect Iran’s territorial integrity and national interests,” Salami said, according to Fars News Agency.

“We declare that we do not want war with any country but we are fully ready for war and the today incident was a clear instance of this precise message,” he underscored.

It is the third time Iran has directly or indirectly targeted a U.S. drone in the past two weeks.

Before attacking two oil tankers near the coast of Iran last week, Iranians launched a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. Navy MQ-9 drone flying in the Gulf of Oman.

The missile missed and fell into the ocean, but days earlier, another U.S. Navy MQ-9 drone was successfully shot down over the Red Sea by Houthi rebels with a suspected Iranian missile.

Iran is also suspected of being responsible for the attack on the two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz last week.