Drone Shot Down by U.S. Warship May Have Been an American Aircraft, Iranian Official Jokes

Iran has denied President Donald Trump's assertion that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, joking that American forces may have instead shot down a U.S. aircraft.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Friday that Iran had not lost a drone, despite U.S. reports that the USS Boxer amphibious assault ship destroyed an unmanned aircraft after it ignored repeated calls to back away.

"We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else," Araqchi said on Twitter. "I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!"

Trump said on Thursday that the Boxer destroyed the Iranian drone despite "multiple calls to stand down." The aircraft reportedly came within 1,000 yards of the warship before being shot down. The president criticized the "provocative and hostile" action and said U.S. forces were acting in self-defense, the Associated Press noted.

We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!

— Seyed Abbas Araghchi (@araghchi) July 19, 2019
Iran, US, drone, shot down
In this file photo, amphibious assault ship USS Boxer transits the East Sea on March 8, 2016 during exercises. The Boxer reportedly shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz on July 18. MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte/U.S. Navy/Getty

The president said the Iranian aircraft was "immediately destroyed" though did not elaborate on how. CNN reported that the drone was downed using an electronic attack. A Pentagon statement said the incident occurred at around 10 a.m. local time in international waters.

Trump noted that the U.S. "reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce." He also urged other nations "to protect their ships as they go through the strait and to work with us in the future."

Tensions remain high between Washington and Tehran over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement last May, arguing it was insufficient.

The president wishes to negotiate the agreement with stricter limitations on Iran's nuclear program, its ballistic missile program and its regional influence.

The U.S. reintroduced economic sanctions on Iran after the withdrawal, but issued waivers to other nations allowing them to continue doing business with Tehran without risking penalties. In May, the administration began withdrawing these waivers.

The escalation prompted military posturing and threats from both sides. Later, commercial tankers were bombed—allegedly by Iranian forces—in the area around the Strait of Hormuz in two separate incidents. With tensions already high, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps then shot down a U.S. drone flying over or near the strait, raising fears that open conflict could break out.

Some 30 percent of all oil traded worldwide must pass through the Strait of Hormuz, making the waterway vital for global economies. As such, the suspected Iranian attacks on commercial shipping are of great concern to the U.S. and its allies. On Thursday, Iranian forces seized a foreign vessel in the strait, accusing its 12 crew of smuggling.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz.

Strait of Hormuz Iran Statista
Strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz. Statista

This article was updated to include an infographic.