Threat Of A Full-Scale Conflict In The Middle East Looms Large As Iran Shoots Down U.S. Military Drone  Source: Wikipedia

Iran shot down a U.S. military drone that the country claims was flying over Iranian air space in the southern Gulf region, further exacerbating tensions between the two countries, FT reported.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard website said its air force shot down the “spy” drone over the southern province of Hormozgan after it “violated” Iranian airspace, but the US Navy said the unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, a major thoroughfare through which one-third of the world’s global oil supply flows.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Captain Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton drone, which costs roughly $180 million and provides real-time intelligence and surveillance to forces on the ground, was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, U.S. Central Command said. The Iranians also unsuccessfully attempted to shoot down a second drone.

Pentagon releases footage Of U.S. Drone Shot Down By Iran.

After a belligerent initial response, US President Donald Trump appeared to downplay the significance of Iran shooting down a US drone over the Gulf, saying he found it “hard to believe” the move was intentional only hours after he had warned that Tehran had made a “very big mistake”.

Earlier on Thursday (Jun 20) morning, Trump told reporters that Iran committed a “big mistake” by further escalating hostilities with the U.S. When queried by reporters at the White House if he would launch a strike against Iran in response, Trump said “you’ll find out.”

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have continued to escalate since the U.S. scrapped the 2015 international nuclear accord early last year .

The latest incident comes close of on the heels of Washington accusing Iran of attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. With a possibility of a military response by US, a threat of a full-scale conflict in the Middle East looms large.

While Iranian officials has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies claim that Iran is the only actor in the region with the necessary wherewithal to execute such sophisticated operations.

Last week, the Pentagon had announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East in addition to the 1,500 troops deployed to the region after the tanker attacks in May.

After unilaterally scrapping the nuclear deal, Trump administration has initiated several punitive sanctions against Iran. It has curtailed the country's oil exports to near zero, sending its economy into tailspin

In April this year, the US administration on Monday announced that it had designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful security and military organization that is tasked with duty to protect Islamic regime, as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The Revolutionary Guard (pasdaran) is intended to protect the country's Islamic Republic system.

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