Tensions between Iran and the US have intensified since Tehran downed an American drone, which as Iran said, had violated the country’s borders. Washington, meanwhile, has accused Tehran of allegedly attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, something that the Islamic Republic denies doing.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated in negotiations with US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Russian military has information that the US drone, destroyed in an incident on 20 June, was shot down in Iranian airspace thus confirming the information earlier provided by Tehran. The US, for its part, insists that the UAV was flying above neutral waters when it was destroyed.
Iranian air defences shot down the American drone, which was flying above the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran stated that the UAV had violated its airspace and failed to respond to multiple warning, later presenting maps, showing the drone’s flight path. Iran also noted that at the same time its forces detected a P-8 Poseidon spy plane, which also violated the country’s airspace, but chose not to shoot it down to avoid casualties.
The US insists that the drone was flying over neutral waters, when it was destroyed by Iranian missiles, presenting maps, allegedly proving it. Washington planned a retaliatory strike against Iran in response to the incident, but it was stopped by US President Donald Trump minutes prior to launch. Trump stated that estimated casualties for the strike were too high for a response to a downed unmanned aircraft.
Investigation Into Attacks on Oil Tankers, Instead of Appointing Culprit
Patrushev addressed Washington’s accusations that Iran allegedly attacked oil takers, damaged in the Gulf of Oman, in May and June, by saying that the information which the US presented in a bid to prove Tehran’s guilt, was of poor quality and unprofessional. He noted that a torpedo attack or sabotage would result in different damage to the vessels.
“We need to conduct a due investigation, to understand what really happened, instead of simply appointing the culprit”, he said.
A number of oil tankers have been damaged reportedly as a result of blasts in May and June in the Gulf of Oman, but none sank or resulted in an oil spill. While the exact reason for the damage has not been determined, the US was quick to accuse Iran of “attacking” the vessels. Tehran denies attacking the ships and called the incident a false-flag operation to blame it.
In a bid to substantiate its claims, Washington released videos allegedly showing Iranian forces removing unexploded limpet mines from the hull of one of the tankers. However, testimony from the crew of the tanker Kokuka Courageous cast a shadow on the US account of events. They saw an object flying towards the ship right before an explosion took place. The head of the tanker’s operator, Yutaka Katada, insisted that it was unlikely that a mine could do the damage seen on the ship’s hull.
On US-Iranian Relations
Patrushev, furthermore, called “unacceptable” US attempts to present Iran as an alleged threat to the region in line with terrorist organisations such as Daesh*.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton in turn touched upon the issue of bilateral relations between Washington and Tehran, which have been in a downward spiral of late, by saying that Iran’s “silence” regarding American offers to negotiate “has been deafening”.
“The [US] president has held the door open to real negotiations. All that Iran needs to do is to walk though that open door”, Bolton said.
Relations between the two states turned for the worse after Washington withdrew from Iran nuclear deal and imposed sanctions against Tehran’s energy, banking and shipping sectors. US President Donald Trump has demanded that Iran signed a new deal with Washington that would be better ensure the country won’t obtain nuclear weapons than the previous deal did, but Tehran has refused to negotiate under pressure.