By RFE/RL’s Radio Farda
President Donald Trump has called Iran's downing of a U.S. military drone a "very big mistake," fuelling fears that simmering tensions between the two countries may boil over into a military conflict.
In a tweet hours after U.S. Central Command said on June 20 that an RQ-4A Global Hawk maritime surveillance drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, Trump said bluntly: ""Iran made a very big mistake!"
The U.S. military says the down of one of its drones by Iran early on June 20 was an "unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."
A statement by U.S. Central Command on June 20 said the RQ-4A Global Hawk maritime surveillance drone was "shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz."
The statement said Iranian claims that "the aircraft was over Iran are false." Iran is disputing the circumstances around the downing of the unmanned aircraft, raising fears of a possible military confrontation amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on June 20 it had shot down a U.S. “spy” drone that had turned off its tracking equipment as it flew over the southern province of Hormozgan -- saying the flight was a clear crossing of “our red line.”
Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz have exacerbated the already-tense situation, with Washington blaming Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies any involvement. Iran's Foreign Ministry came out with a strongly worded statement condemning what it called a “provocative” incursion of the country’s airspace. "Any such violations of Iran's borders are strongly condemned ... We warn of the consequences of such illegal and provocative measures," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to state television.
Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen claimed they had struck a power station in Al-Shuqaiq city, in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan Province, with a cruise missile.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald 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.
Based on reporting by AP, dpa, Fox News and Reuters mn/ac/rs