Iran Says It Refrained From Shooting Down U.S. Plane With 35 on Board

Revolutionary Guard senior official says downed U.S. drone was accompanied by plane which also entered Iranian airspace, adds 'we could have shot it down, but we did not'

Smoke trail left after a U.S. Global Hawk drone was shot down over the Gulf of Oman on June 19, 2019
Smoke trail left after a U.S. Global Hawk drone was shot down over the Gulf of Oman on June 19, 2019Credit: AFP

Iran refrained from shooting down a U.S. plane with 35 people on board that was accompanying the drone it downed in the Gulf, a Revolutionary Guards commander said on Friday.

Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency: "With the U.S. drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not."

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 31Credit: Haaretz

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The Global Hawk drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The U.S. says the unarmed drone was flying over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz but Iran says it was on a spy mission over its territorial waters.

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials told Reuters that Tehran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.

Iran Tensions

"In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues ... he gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran's immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue," one of the officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Trump had approved strikes against Iranian targets in retaliation for shooting down the drone, but pulled back after planes were in air and ships were in position.

The report claimed the order to halt attacks on Iranian radar and missile batteries came after intense debate at the White House among top security officials and congressional leaders. No missiles had been fired and it is not clear whether Washington will still move forward with the strikes.

Also Friday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook met Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

They discussed recent attacks in the region which the United States and Saudi Arabia blame on Iran, which Tehran denies being behind. Prince Khalid affirmed Saudi support for the U.S. campaign to pressure Tehran.

"Our diplomacy does not give Iran the right to respond with military force, Iran needs to meet our diplomacy with diplomacy and not military force," Hook told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. "It's important we do everything we can to de-escalate."

The United States and Saudi Arabia are among countries that have blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for global oil supplies.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the United States of deliberately stoking dangerous tensions around Iran and pushing the situation to the brink of war, the RIA news agency reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on Washington to weigh the possible consequences of conflict with Iran and said a report in the New York Times showed the situation was extremely dangerous.

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