President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, the latest escalation of military tensions with Iran.
Trump said during a ceremony at the White House with the Dutch prime minister that the drone “had closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1,000 yards” of the Navy amphibious assault ship the U.S.S. Boxer in the strategically important passageway connecting the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
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The drone, Trump said, ignored “multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.” As a result, he said, the U.S.S. Boxer “took defensive action” against the drone, which the president said was “immediately destroyed.”
“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” he continued. “The United States 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. I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the strait and to work with us in the future.”
The incident, as the president noted, was the latest in a series of clashes between the U.S. and Iran, leading to preparations to dispatch U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, the latest military assets to head to the region.
But it also comes days after Trump personally gave anti-interventionist Sen. Rand Paul the OK to extend an olive branch to Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who is in New York for UN meetings this week.
Iran has ratcheted up tensions as it continues to push the limits of the 2015 nuclear pact that Trump withdrew from last year, announcing that it had exceeded the amounts of stored uranium allowed under the multinational pact and had begun to enrich uranium past the limits of the agreement as well. Tehran has called on the remaining signatories of the deal, meant to keep the Islamist nation from developing nuclear weapons, to intervene in order to save it and stave off sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration over the last year.
In a dramatic reversal last month, Trump confirmed that he had authorized and then canceled airstrikes against Tehran after it shot down a U.S. drone that it claimed had entered Iranian airspace. The U.S. has vehemently denied those claims, asserting the drone was over international waters.
Thursday’s news of the drone attack followed reports from Iranian state media that it had seized a foreign oil tanker and its crew in the Strait of Hormuz that it claimed had been smuggling fuel out of the country.
The confrontations of the last few months have given way to fears that the two countries are on a crash course, worries that are likely to grow following the latest incident.