Iran has shot down two unmanned western reconnaissance drone aircraft in the Gulf, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander says.
“Many spy planes and ultra-modern aircraft of our enemies have been shot down (by our forces) … We have also shot down two spy planes in the Persian Gulf,” said commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the elite forces’ aerospace unit. “But it is the first time we are announcing it.” He did not say when the aircraft had been shot down, but described them as “western drone reconnaissance” aircraft.
Iran is at odds with major powers over its nuclear activities, which the United States and its allies suspect are intended to enable Iran to produce nuclear bombs. Iran denies the allegations and says it wants only to generate electricity. The United States and Israel, Iran’s main foes, do not rule out military action if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row.
Hajizadeh said the enemies — a term used by Iranian authorities for the United States and its allies — had been using the drones mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. “But there has been cases of violations of our airspace by their drones,” the commander said. Iran has dismissed reports of possible U.S. or Israeli plans to strike Iran, but says it would respond by attacking U.S. interests and Israel if any such assault was made.
Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of all traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway. “All their military bases are completely within Iran’s missile range … We have full control of our enemies and notice any changes taking place on our shores,” Hajizadeh said.
Iran often launches military drills in the country to display its military capabilities amid persistent speculation about a possible U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Alongside the regular army, Iran has a Revolutionary Guards force viewed as guardians of the Islamic ruling system. The Guards have a separate command and their own air, sea and land units, but often work with the regular military.