By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) The White House very likely will strike back against Iran following the Islamic republic’s downing of a multi-million dollar U.S. surveillance drone over international waters on Wednesday, according to statements made by President Donald Trump and other analysts.
On Friday, the president indicated that counterstrikes were coming when he tweeted, “Iran made a very big mistake.” And on Thursday during a trade meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the president reminded reporters when asked about the incident that the U.S. drone, an RQ-4 Global Hawk, was in international waters.
The drone shootdown comes after Iran attacked Norwegian- and Japanese-flagged tankers in the Strait of Hormoz with mines over the weekend, as well as a pair of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this month.
“Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters, clearly,” POTUS said. “We have it all documented scientifically, not just words. And they made a very bad mistake.”
“We’ll be able to report back and you’ll understand exactly what happened, but it was a very foolish move, that I can tell you,” the president added. “This is a new wrinkle, this is a new fly in the ointment, what happened, shooting down the drone,” he said. “And this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”
Officials with U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East region, said that the RQ-4 was shot down with a surface-to-air missile system as it operated in international airspace around 7:35 p.m. on Wednesday.
Trump did, however, appear to give Iran an ‘out,’ so to speak, when he suggested that the attack could have been done by a rogue element of the Iranian military.
“I have a big, big feeling” an Iranian air defense operator erred in attacking the drone, someone “loose and stupid who did it.” And The New York Times reported that planes were in the air and U.S. warships were prepared to launch missile strikes against Iranian missile batteries and radar installations, but the mission was aborted.
“The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off,” the Times quotes a senior administration official saying. “Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.”
More from the Times report: “It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward. Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.”
Nevertheless, the president gave strong indications that retaliation of some kind was in the works. When asked what happens next, he told reporters, “You’ll find out.”
Meanwhile, Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of CENTCOM air forces, said the drone was conducting surveillance over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz in international airspace near recent IRGC attacks on the two tankers.
He added that the drone was struck by an IRGC surface-to-air missile fired from a base near Goruk, Iran.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission,” Guastella said in a statement. “This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce.”
He added that Iran falsely claimed the aircraft was shot down over Iran. “The aircraft was over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters,” he said.
“At the time of the intercept, the RQ-4 was operating at high-altitude approximately 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast,” Guastella noted further. “This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, UAE, and Muscat Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians.”
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”
Walid Phares, a Fox News national security analyst, said the U.S. was “tightening the screws around Iran” with a buildup of forces in the region over the past month — since the Pentagon obtained intelligence that Iran was planning some sort of action.
“This explains why Iran is trying to do…small strikes now and, in this case, I would argue they knew what they were doing when they were targeting an …. unmanned drone,” he told Fox Business Network Thursday.
“Because they know if the American public would see American victims, then that would give the president a lot of fuel to respond” militarily, he added.
And yet, that seems to be the most likely option POTUS Trump will choose. Not only has Iran tested his resolve and that of our allies, but Russia, China, North Korea, as well as potential allies around the world are watching to see what the president does and how he responds.
“At the end of the day, the White House will decide when, where, and how they want to respond to this attack,” Phares noted further.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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