Iran denies losing any drones after President Donald Trump said US had downed an unnamed Iranian aircraft in the Strait of Hormuz.
Rabat – The United States announced that a US Navy ship has “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, after the drone threatened the vessel. Iran has dismissed the claim.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took “defensive action” against an Iranian drone at 10 am local time (07:00 GMT) on Thursday, July 18.
US President Donald Trump said the Iranian drone had flown within 1,000 meters of the USS Boxer and had disregarded several calls to stand down.
“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” US President Donald Trump said. “The US reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests.”
“The drone was immediately destroyed,” he added.
The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, denied the claim in a Twitter post on Friday, July 19.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!” Araghchi wrote.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in New York for meetings at the United Nations, said he had “no information about losing a drone.”
The implication took place in international waters while the ship was crossing the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Gulf.
The Boxer is among several US Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the nearby North Arabian Sea for weeks.
“Tit for tat”
Tensions in the Gulf are escalating with rising fears that a US-Iranian war may erupt in the near future.
Washington has blamed Tehran for multiple attacks on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery. Tehran has denied all accusations.
In June 2019, Iran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile. Tehran claimed the drone was in its airspace, but Washington maintains that it was in international skies.
At the time, Trump said he had called off a retaliatory military strike on Iran at the last minute.
The latest incident took place on Thursday, July 18 when Washington demanded that Iran immediately release a vessel it seized in the Gulf.
A US military commander in the region said that the US would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway.
Mark Fitzpatrick, the associate fellow at the US-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that both incidents involving drones intensify the potential for conflict in the region.
“None of the incidents have resulted in casualties so far; the drones are unmanned, in a way that was tit for tat,” Fitzpatrick told Al Jazeera from Washington DC.
“They need to start talking to stop this escalatory cycle. Donald Trump himself has been saying he does want to talk with Iranians. So, what exactly is the US strategy? No one in Washington knows,” he added.