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Iran Shoots Down US Drone Amid Tensions06/20 06:11

   Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday amid 
heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear 
deal with world powers, American and Iranian officials said, while disputing 
the circumstances of the incident.

   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone on 
Thursday amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its 
collapsing nuclear deal with world powers, American and Iranian officials said, 
while disputing the circumstances of the incident.

   The Guard said it shot down the drone over Iranian airspace, while two U.S. 
officials told The Associated Press that the downing happened over 
international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz. The different accounts could 
not be immediately reconciled.

   Previously, the U.S. military alleged that Iran had fired a missile at 
another drone last week that was responding to the attack on two oil tankers 
near the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blames Iran for the attack on the ships; Tehran 
denies it was involved.

   The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the 
U.S. and Iran following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from 
Tehran's nuclear deal a year ago.

   Separately, Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi 
rebels launched a rocket targeting a desalination plant in the kingdom the 
previous night. The White House said Trump was briefed about that attack.

   Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to 
boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe 
for new terms to the 2015 nuclear deal.

   In recent weeks, the U.S. has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and 
deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. From 
Yemen, the Houthis have launched bomb-laden drones into neighboring Saudi 
Arabia.

   All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions 
could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after 
Tehran's Islamic Revolution. Thursday's drone incident marks the first direct 
Iranian-claimed attack on the U.S. amid the crisis.

   "We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully 
ready for war," Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami said in a 
televised address.

   Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme 
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone on Thursday morning 
when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern 
Iran's Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) 
southeast of Tehran and close to the Strait of Hormuz.

   Iran's state-run IRNA news agency, citing the Guard, identified the drone as 
an RQ-4 Global Hawk. However, the U.S. Navy also flies a variant that looks 
similar called the MQ-4C Triton.

   The U.S. officials told the AP the Iranians fired a surface-to-air missile 
striking the American drone. The officials said the incident happened over the 
Strait of Hormuz in international airspace. The strait is the narrow mouth of 
the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all global oil moves.

   The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as the information 
had yet to be cleared for release to the public. They did not elaborate on the 
type of drone shot down, nor the mission it was conducting. However, the U.S. 
has been worried about international shipping through the Strait of Hormuz 
since the limpet mine attacks in May and June.

   Salami, speaking to a crowd in the western city of Sanandaj, described the 
American drone as "violating our national security border."

   "Borders are our red line," Salami said. "Any enemy that violates the 
borders will be annihilated."

   Iran has claimed to have shot down American drones in the past. In the 
most-famous incident, Iran seized an RQ-170 Sentinel in December 2011 flown by 
the CIA to monitor Iranian nuclear sites after it entered Iranian airspace from 
neighboring Afghanistan. The Iranians later reverse-engineered the drone to 
create their own variants.

   Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said Yemen's Houthi rebels fired a rocket a 
desalination plant in al-Shuqaiq, a city in the kingdom's Jizan province. The 
state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki 
saying the attack caused no damage and wounded no one. The Yemeni rebel 
Al-Masirah satellite news channel earlier said the Houthis targeted a power 
plant in Jizan, near the kingdom's border with Yemen, with a cruise missile.

   White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said 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. It wasn't immediately clear why Trump would 
be briefed about an attack that caused no damage or casualties.

   A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in 
Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the 
conflict. In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched a new campaign sending 
missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.


(CZ)

 
 
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