Iran Releases Video Claiming to Show U.S. Did Not Down Its Drone

The Iranian military has released footage purporting to prove that its drone was not downed by a U.S. warship as claimed by President Donald Trump.

In a statement, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Friday that the video showed an unmanned aerial device commanded by their aerospace division as it monitored the movements Thursday of U.S. warships, including the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer that was said to have destroyed the drone that same day, and five other ships sailing in through the Strait of Hormuz.

The statement said that the drone had conducted surveillance for up to three hours and "observed no unusual or threatening actions by the terrorist U.S. forces." As a result, the Revolutionary Guards said that Trump's claims were "proven false and unsubstantiated."

iran drone video navy gulf
A screenshot from a video released July 19 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards purports to show an Iranian drone tracking U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf region. The video was released in an effort to disprove U.S. claims that the USS boxer shot down an Iranian drone the day before. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Trump first revealed Thursday that the USS Boxer "took defensive action against an Iranian drone which had closed into a very near distance, approximately 1000 yards, ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew." The president said that "the drone was immediately destroyed" and urged international support against Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif initially said his country had "no information about having lost a drone." The following day, the Revolutionary Guards denied losing any unmanned aerial system in an earlier statement and Iranian ambassador to the United Nations Abbas Araqchi quipped about the alleged incident on Twitter.

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

Trump, however, said Friday at the White House that there was "no doubt" the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone and was backed up by national security adviser John Bolton, who said there was "no question it was an Iranian drone." Trump also issued a fresh warning to the Islamic Republic, saying he was not concerned about the prospect of a conflict breaking out.

"We have the greatest people in the world, we have the greatest equipment in the world. We have the greatest ships—the most deadly ships, we don't want to have to use them, but they're the most deadly ships ever conceived," Trump told reporters. "And we hope for their sake they don't do anything foolish. If they do, they will pay a price like nobody's ever paid a price."

The development was the latest in a tit-for-tat war of information surrounding incidents in the strategic waters near the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil chokepoint, since Trump's pullout last year from a 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. has blamed Iran for two attacks May and last month on international oil vessels in the nearby Gulf of Oman and for allegedly harassing a U.K. vessel earlier this month.

While the U.S. issued footage last month purporting to show the Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded mine from one of the damaged tankers, Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks. It has, however, threatened to retaliate in response to the U.K.'s seizure of an Iranian supertanker accused of attempting to transport oil to Syria via Gibraltar and has seized a much smaller UAE-based vessel accused of smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf. Washington and Tehran have blamed one another for fostering instability and have branded branches of one another's military forces terrorist organizations.

The Revolutionary Guards also shot down a U.S. Navy drone last month in a move that nearly triggered U.S. military action, though Trump suspended a decision to strike back at the last minute. Iran argued that the device entered the country's territory, while the Pentagon has argued that it remained within international airspace and again both sides issued conflicting data.

The nuclear deal's other signatories have called for calm as the two longtime rivals continued to posture. China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom still support the deal and have opposed U.S. sanctions restricting Iran's international trade, though European parties have struggled to bypass these measures. With its incentives to stay waning, Tehran has begun enriching uranium beyond restricted levels, warning it would continue to do so unless it received the economic benefits promised upon signing the agreement.