Checkpoint Asia

Iranian Shoot Down of $120 Million Drone Part of Its “Maximum Pressure” Campaign on Trump

Iran is pushing back as it feels it has Trump in a tough spot electorally

Early this morning Iranian air defense shot down a U.S. high attitude reconnaissance drone:

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have shot down a U.S. “spy” drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf, the Guards’ news website Sepah News said on Thursday.State news agency IRNA carried the same report, identifying the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.

“It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Guards’ website added.

The U.S. says that the drone was a MQ-4C Triton, the Navy variant of the Global Hawk type that is specialized on Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS). It claims that the drone was in international airspace when Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot it down. (Interestingly no MQ-4C was supposed to be in the Middle East. The deployment must have been secret.)

The incident is another piece of evidence that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran now works against him.

Trump allegedly told his staff to stop talking up war on Iran:

Two senior officials and three other individuals with direct knowledge of the administration’s strategy in the region tell The Daily Beast that the president has asked officials to tone down their heated rhetoric on Iran …

Trump does not want to open a military conflict with Iran. But he is already waging a brutal economic war against Iran and the country is pushing back. Trump wants negotiations with Iran without lifting sanctions against it. Iran rejects that.

It does no longer matter what Trump wants. Iran has achieved escalation dominance. It can cause a myriad of incidents that force Trump to react. He can either launch a hot war and thereby risk his reelection bid, or he can cut back on the sanctions that hurt the Iranian people. If he does not do either, more pinpricks will follow and will over time become more costly.

The loss of the Global Hawk drone is significant. These huge birds with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 are considered strategic assets. They were built as replacements for the infamous U-2 spy planes. They carry highly classified sensors and cost more than $120 million a piece.

This loss can certainly be attributed to Iran. But to blame Iran for it the U.S. will have to prove that its drone did not enter Iranian air space.

U.S. drones have violated Iran’s sovereign airspace before. In 2011 Iran acquired a stealthy RQ-170 drone which had flown in from Afghanistan by manipulating its command signals. In 2012 Iran took down another U.S. drone, a Boeing Scan Eagle, that had flown in from the Persian Gulf.

How will Trump react to this incident? President John Bolton will demand military action against Iran as revenge for the shoot down. He will surely also press for sending more troops to the Middle East.

Trump may again play down the incident, like he recently did with the tanker attack which he called “very minor”. But the war hawks in the media and Congress, and Iran, will put more pressure on him. More incidents would surely follow.

Trump has a way out. He could issue sanction waivers to allow China, Japan, South Korea, India and others to again import Iranian oil. It would take the “maximum” out of his now failed “maximum pressure” campaign and could be a way to move towards negotiations.

Source: Moon of Alabama