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U.S. Denies Iran Drone Capture Claim

Iran claims it has captured a U.S. drone that was intruding in its air space, but U.S. forces say that’s not true because all of the U.S. drones are accounted for, leading to a battle of the veracity of the two nations’ public statements.

Who to believe?

Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said earlier today that no American drones are missing. He said that the U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf are “confined to internationally recognized water and airspace.”

The U.S. isn’t the only nation in the Gulf with ScanEagle drones, the kind Iran claims to have captured. For instance, United Arab Emirates also uses ScanEagles, which are manufactured by Boeing and are four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan.

Underlying the competing claims is the battle over Iran’s nuclear program. Because President Obama has vowed that Iran will not be able to move toward converting its nuclear power program into a weapons system, the U.S. must keep a close eye on Iran’s internal operations.

We have been here before. Last year Iran claimed it had captured a CIA spy drone in Iranian airspace and even said it recovered data from the top-secret drone. The drone was indeed monitoring Iran’s nuclear facilities, the U.S. admitted. Washington asked for it back, but Iran refused.

The world community has come together to force the Iranian government to stop moving toward nuclear weapons—something Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies his government is doing. In October, countries in the European Union announced that they were imposing sanctions on major Iranian oil and gas companies. The sanctions, which also include restrictions on Iran’s central bank, are intended to limit Iran’s access to cash, which would be a severe blow to the country’s ability to develop a nuclear weapons system.

Pushed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes his country would be a prime target of a nuclear-armed Iran, the U.S. and the rest of the world community has been cranking up the pressure on Iran through sanctions and diplomatic measures.

In this latest incident, the information comes from a report on Iranian state television, which quoted the Revolutionary Guard’s navy chief, Gen. Ali Fadavi, as saying that the Iranian forces caught the “intruding” drone and it is now in their possession.

“The U.S. drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard’s navy air defense unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace,” Fadavi said. “Such drones usually take off from large warships.”

The Iranians went to elaborate lengths to stage a theatrical display on Al-Alam, the state TV’s Arabic-language channel. In the footage, two Revolutionary Guard commanders are shown examining what appears to be a Scan Eagle drone, then they point out the drone’s path of entry into Iran on a huge map of the Persian Gulf in the background.

Printed above the map was a sign that blared, “We shall trample on the U.S.” next to the Guard’s coat-of-arms.

The issue of drones in Iranian airspace is a constant source of tension in the region. Just last month, the U.S. said Iranian warplanes shot at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace, while the Iranians claimed the aircraft had entered its airspace, saying Iran would respond “decisively” to any foreign encroachments into its airspace.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, complained to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon about alleged repeated U.S. violations of Iranian airspace, calling them as “illegal and provocative acts.”

Khazaee said U.S. craft had entered southern Iran seven times in October, near Iran’s nuclear power station.

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