Video Shows What Iran Says Is Shoot Down of 'Foreign' Drone, U.S. Denies One of Theirs

Iran has announced it shot down an unmanned aerial system that penetrated the country's airspace over southwestern Khuzestan province, releasing a short video purporting to back the claim.

The five-second clip, published Friday by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, shows an unidentified surface-to-air missile system firing into the night sky. The footage accompanied a statement by Iranian Army Air Defense Force Brigadier General Alireza Sabahifard, who said that "a drone was destroyed by the indigenous army air defense systems deployed in the Mahshahr general area under the guidance of the country's integrated air defenses."

Sabahifard explained that the "decisive act of firing missiles came in response to a foreign invasion of our airspace," noting that the attempt was thwarted "before reaching critical locations." Iran "will be fully prepared to respond decisively to any violation of its airspace," he warned.

The brigadier general did not specify from which country the device launched or identify its national origin, but U.S. Central Command, which lost a state-of-the-art spy drone to Iranian air defenses in June, tweeted: "Alleged reports of a U.S. drone being shot down are incorrect. If a UAS had gone down in the CENTCOM AOR it was not a #DoD asset. All U.S. equipment has been accounted for."

iran video air defense shoot drone
A still from a five-second clip published by the Iranian military shows the moment a surface-to-air missile system is fired, purportedly in the vicinity of Mahshahr Country and targeting a "foreign" drone that entered the country's airspace over southwestern Khuzestan province, November 8. Islamic Republic of Iran Army

The alleged incident comes amid seemingly perpetual high tensions between the U.S. and Iran, whose rivalry has increasingly centered around the Persian Gulf region off the shores of where Friday's drone was said to have entered. After Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards took down the advanced U.S. Global Hawk drone with what they said as a domestically-produced 3rd Khordad system in June, the Navy claimed to have downed a smaller Iranian drone a month later using an electronic jamming device on Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

Both countries have repeatedly challenged one another's claims, with the U.S. denying its device violated Iranian airspace, and Tehran denying its drone was hit at all in July. Washington has also charged its foe with sabotaging oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and of orchestrating a missile and drone attack on two Saudi oil facilities in September.

Frictions between the U.S. and Iran date back decades but have gotten markedly worse since President Donald Trump withdrew last year from a 2015 nuclear deal that briefly abated their mutual animosity. The agreement was also endorsed and continues to be backed by China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, though Europe's failure to live up to trade commitments under threat of Washington's sanctions has led Tehran to gradually reduce its own compliance, as per the terms of the accord.

Iran has offered to return to the negotiating table, but only if the U.S. withdrew increasingly tight restrictions hindering the Islamic Republic's economy—something the Trump administration has so far refused to do.

us navy coalition gulf iran
A picture taken on November 7 shows a partial view of the operational center of the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct following its opening at the U.S. 5th Fleet Command in the Bahraini capital Manama. The United States is training Persian Gulf allies to "protect navigation" in the region's troubled waterways, as it seeks to build an alliance against Iran. MAZEN MAHDI/AFP/Getty Images

Amid the recent unrest, the U.S. has also increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf region, sending additional troops to countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq and shoring up its naval assets. It has also sought to boost a maritime coalition so far backed by Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K.

Tehran has viewed these moves as provocative and sought to counter this initiative with its own regional proposal termed the Coalition for HOPE, or Hormuz Peace Endeavor. Despite troubled relations across the critical Strait of Hormuz, Iran has extended invitations to the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council⁠—which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE⁠—as well as Iraq, which has been beset by protests directed against both U.S. and Iranian presence in the embattled nation.

Russia has backed Iran's attempts to foster regional cooperation and has volunteered its own efforts in realizing this in a move backed by China. Moscow has joined Tehran in backing the Syrian government against a rebel and jihadi uprising and Beijing remains the top Iranian export partner and, though both powers have so far fallen short of offering explicit military support to the Islamic Republic, they have bolstered relations on various fronts.

These efforts have frustrated the Trump administration's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign to financially constrict what it calls "the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." Both Russia and China, however, still supported the nuclear agreement and, with the U.S. out, Europe struggling to uphold its end and Iran stepping away, no clear victors have emerged from the feud.