A U.S. commanding general in the Middle East said an attack by Iran on a U.S. drone conducting a surveillance mission in international airspace was “an unprovoked attack.”
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
“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
He also said Iran’s attack possibly endangered innocent civilians.
“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,” he said.
Guastella said a U.S. Navy RQ-4 was flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz on a surveillance mission in international airspace near recent Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) maritime attacks, when it was shot down by an IRGC surface-to-air missile fired from a location near Goruk, Iran.
He added that reports the aircraft was shot down over Iran are “categorically false.”
“The aircraft was over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters. 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,” he said.
Guastella read the statement to Pentagon reporters via a telephone conference, but did not take questions.
The statement came after President Trump tweeted, “Iran made a very big mistake!”
Iran made a very big mistake!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2019