Tension has been rising in the Middle East lately, particularly after a pair of commercial tanker ships were attacked and disabled in the Gulf of Oman, ostensibly via mines laid in the gulf by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its premier Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Lost in all of the shuffle over the attacked tanker ships were reports that a U.S. drone surveilling those attacks was also shot at with an Iranian surface-to-air missile in an incident just confirmed by U.S. military authorities.
Iranian missile fire
U.S Central Command issued a statement on Sunday which did indeed confirm that an Iranian missile was fired at a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle that was observing the tanker incident on June 13.
Lt. Col. Earl Brown, spokesman for Central Command, said that based upon assessments, “a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9 over the Gulf of Oman to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous.”
“The MQ-9 had arrived minutes earlier at 6:20 a.m. local time at the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and had observed the ship on fire,” Brown said.
That Iranian missile missed its target, obviously, and Brown deemed the attempted attack to be “ineffective” as the missile never got closer than one kilometer away from the drone.
“Subsequent analysis indicates that this was a likely attempt to shoot down or otherwise disrupt the MQ-9 surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” Brown noted.
In related news, the Central Command spokesman also confirmed that a U.S. MQ-9 was successfully shot down over Yemen by Iranian-backed rebel Houthi forces who used an Iranian-supplied SA-6 surface-to-air missile on June 6 against the drone.
This is some rather serious news that will, unfortunately, serve to heighten tension in the region. The attempted shoot-down of the drone over the Gulf of Oman by Iran could easily be construed as an act of war worthy of retribution.
It should be noted that it was the drone flying over the Gulf of Oman at the time of the attacks on the tanker ships that captured the footage of what appears to be IRGC troops on a small boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of those attacked tankers.
It is unclear if the attempted shoot-down occurred before or after the drone had already obtained and transmitted that allegedly incriminating footage.
Whether the attempt results in retaliatory strikes or increased economic pressure, or whether the step toward the brink compels cooler heads to prevail, are things that remain to be seen at this point.