Iran today upped the ante on its claims that it had captured a U.S.-operated drone, saying it has “material evidence” to prove its allegation.
But in the continuing public relations duel, the U.S. repeated its earlier contention that none of the U.S. drones are missing. “We have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said all U.S. drones in the region are “fully accounted for.”
While Pentagon spokesman George Little conceded that the drone in Iranian possession may in fact be a U.S. drone, he said it could be somebody else’s ScanEagle drone.
“We have material evidence to prove that the drone we captured belongs to the U.S.,” Ismael Kowsari, the head of the Iranian parliament’s defense committee, told The Associated Press. “The unmanned aircraft took off from a warship. The Americans will have no choice but to confirm that one of their drones is missing.”
“The Americans have increased their spying activities, including monitoring Iran’s nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Bandar Abbas port and oil facilities and export terminals,” he said.
Iran believes the U.S. and its allies are seeking data about the flow of goods into Iran and the status of its oil exports after the 27-nation European Union imposed an oil embargo against Iran July 1.
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.
In a piece in the foreign policy journal National Interest entitled “Ten Reasons Iran Doesn’t Want the Bomb,” Iran’s former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian, who is now a visiting scholar at Princeton, said Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon because it recognizes this would not be in its best long-term interests. According to Mousavian, Iranians know that if the country were to develop nukes, Russia and China would join the U.S. and “implement devastating sanctions that would paralyze the Iranian economy.” This would create a major obstacle for Tehran’s access to technological cooperation with developed countries.
“They do not want to see Iran come under the kind of extreme international isolation levied against North Korea,” he said. He also said it “makes no rational sense” to believe that Iran would ever consider using nukes against the U.S. or Israel.
“Any provocation by Iran against two states that possess thousands and hundreds of nuclear weapons respectively would result in Iran’s total annihilation,” Mousavian said.
But the problem with that analysis, in the eyes of many Western and Israeli analysts, is their belief that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t operating with “rational sense.”