Iran says it will release photos to prove drone not downed by US 

Source: Iran says it will release photos to prove drone not downed by US | The Times of Israel

Revolutionary Guard doubles down on denial that its aircraft was shot down in Strait of Hormuz while approaching an American vessel

Illustrative: Head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh looks at debris from what the division describes as the US drone which was shot down by Iran, seen here in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2019. (Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via AP)

Illustrative: Head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh looks at debris from what the division describes as the US drone which was shot down by Iran, seen here in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2019. (Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via AP)

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Friday it will release images taken by a drone that US President Donald Trump says was hit by a US warship to disprove his claim.

The Guard’s website, sepahnews.com, published a statement on Friday saying these images will show the Guard’s drone had been carrying out its regular mission as the USS Boxer arrived in the Strait of Hormuz.

It did not say when the images would be released.

Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.

The Guard said the drone sent images before and after the time the Americans claimed the aircraft was destroyed on Thursday.

A UH-1Y Venom helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz, July 18, 2019. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released)

The statement added that Guard forces continue to carefully monitor all movements of foreigners — especially “the terrorist forces” of the US and the British in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf.

In Tehran, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted military spokesman Gen. Abolfazl Shekari as saying that “all Iranian drones that are in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one which the US president mentioned, have … returned to their bases.”

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Trump blamed Iran for a “provocative and hostile” action and said the US responded in self-defense. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that “we have no information about losing a drone today.”

After Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and imposed economic sanctions on Tehran, the Iranians have pushed back on the military front, shooting down a US drone on June 20.

US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Williams Arena in Greenville, North Carolina, July 17, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Shortly after, Trump ordered a retaliatory military strike but called it off at the last moment, saying the risk of casualties was disproportionate to the downing by Iran, which did not cost any US lives. Iran claimed the US drone violated its airspace; the Pentagon denied this.

Also in the past weeks, the Persian Gulf region has seen six attacks on oil tankers that the US has blamed on Iran, and a tense encounter between the Guard and the British navy. Iran has denied involvement in the attacks or the British naval encounter.

The US has also sent thousands of additional troops and increased its security presence in the region.

The Pentagon said Thursday’s incident happened at 10 a.m. local time in international waters while the Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Persian 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.

Neither Trump nor the Pentagon spelled out how the Boxer destroyed the drone. CNN reported that the ship used electronic jamming to bring it down rather than hitting it with a missile.

Adding to the economic pressure on Tehran, the Treasury Department said Thursday it was imposing sanctions on what it called a network of front companies and agents involved in helping Iran buy sensitive materials for its nuclear program. It said the targeted individuals and entities are based in Iran, China and Belgium.

 

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