Iranian media reported on December 4 that the naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have successfully hunted down an American Scan Eagle surveillance drone which had violated Iran’s airspace during an espionage mission over the Persian Gulf island of Khark on the southern coast of Iran.
Officials in the Obama administration rushed to categorically refute the claims that Iran had captured the American drone. Immediately after Iran’s English-language Press TV aired an 11-minute footage showing Iranian commanders inspecting the intact Scan Eagle drone in an undisclosed location in Tehran, the U.S. military officials released statements and denied the reports.
“The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region,” Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the United States Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain told Reuters. “Our operations in the gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and airspace. We have no record that we have lost any Scan Eagles recently.”
However, a few hours later, the public relations officer of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Ramazan Sharif told the Tasnim News Agency that “the United States will sooner or later confirm that it has lost one of its drones.”
“I recommend the American commanders to count the number of their drones once again,” he said. The Scan Eagle drone, as said by IRGC, was on a mission to gather information about Iran’s oil terminals.
It’s not the first time IRGC takes over an American drone. In December 2011, IRGC’s electronic warfare unit captured a U.S.-manufactured Lockheed Martin RQ-170 reconnaissance drone while flying over the southeastern territories of Iran. It was later confirmed that the sophisticated drone, known as the Kandahar Beast, had been collecting information and imagery of nuclear facilities and was planned to deliver the information to a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, but failed to accomplish its mission.
Although the American military analysts who were interviewed by U.S. media tried to play down the importance of Iran’s achievement by alleging that Scan Eagle is not a complicated and significant drone, they will surely confirm in their privacy that it’s been seized by the naval forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is yet another debacle for the United States which in the past decade has gone through fire and water to obstruct Iran’s nuclear program, while it has no single page of evidence showing that such nuclear activities have a military dimension.
In the past 10 years, the United States pulled out all the stops to hinder Iran’s nuclear program. Planning for the destabilization of the Iranian government through funding the so-called pro-reform, pro-democracy movements; imposing hard-hitting economic sanctions which have borne no fruit but the suffering and anguish of ordinary Iranian citizens; and assassinating Iran’s nuclear scientists and supporting anti-Iranian terrorist groups such as MKO and Jundallah to carry out terrorist operations on Iranian soil are only some of the machinations of the United States in Iran. The superficial excuse is to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but the reality is that Iran is emerging as a regional superpower and this is something the U.S. cannot come to terms with.
However, an important point in this latest chapter of the standoff between Iran and the U.S. is the legal aspect of Washington’s dispatching of surveillance drones. Iran is not a failed state like Somalia to neglectfully overlook the violation of its airspace by a foreign aggressor. To Iran, such provocations signify the possibility of more serious moves in the future, such as a military strike on its nuclear facilities.
On December 9, 2011, Iran formally lodged a complaint against the U.S. to the UN Security Council and criticized Washington for violating Iran’s airspace. Albeit it could be predicted from the outset that the Security Council, dominated by a number of veto-yielding powers and some non-permanent members which are heavily influenced by the U.S., would not take any practical steps to condemn these violations of the airspace of a sovereign nation, Iran has no choice but to bring its case to the International Court of Justice and other international organizations in order to prevent the U.S. from repeating such fatal blunders.
What is clear is that Iran’s army and IRGC are sufficiently powerful to confront foreign threats against the country, even in the face of war, which the U.S., Israel and their European friends have been trumpeting for so long. The fact that Iran has reached the technical capability to capture American drones flying over its waters and lands indicates that it has become a serious contender to U.S. military power.
The irony is that the United States has gone to great lengths to bring Iran to its knees, and even banned the export of medicine and powder milk to the Republic – which may purportedly contribute to its nuclear program as dual-use materials! But it seems that Iran does not intend to surrender in the face of such backbreaking pressures.
Maybe it’s the advantage of being a lawless superpower that you can send unmanned aerial vehicles to a foreign country thousands of kilometers away from where you are, without being reprimanded and criticized. Yet imagine for a moment what would happen if Iran violates America’s airspace by sending drones to the Gulf of Mexico for espionage? Wouldn’t it without further ado spark World War III?