US President Donald Trump played down Iran’s downing of an American military surveillance drone on Thursday, saying he suspects it was shot by mistake, Reuters reports.
“I think probably Iran made a mistake – I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” Trump was quoted as saying at the White House.
“It’s hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” he added, saying it could have been carried out by someone who was acting “loose and stupid.
Talking down the incident as “a new wrinkle … a new fly in the ointment”, Trump said “it would have made a big difference” to him had the remotely controlled aircraft been piloted.
“We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you, it would have made a big, big difference” if the aircraft had been piloted, Trump said as he met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office.
While the comments appeared to suggest Trump was not eager to escalate the latest in a series of incidents with Iran, he also warned: “This country will not stand for it.”
Iranian state media have reported that a “spy” drone was brought down over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan with a locally made “3 Khordad” missile in the early hours of Thursday.
Tehran said the unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drone was on a spy mission over its territory, but Washington said it was shot down over international airspace.
The US called the an “unprovoked attack”, the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, since mid-May, including explosive strikes on six oil tankers.
A US official said the drone was a Global Hawk that had been downed in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the drone had violated Iranian airspace and warned of the consequences of such “illegal and provocative” measures.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the aircraft had taken off from the United Arab Emirates “in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace.”
A Iranian Revolutionary Guards statement said the drone’s identification transponder had been switched off “in violation of aviation rules and was moving in full secrecy” when it was downed.
The Global Hawk’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, says on its website that it can fly for over 24 hours at a time at altitudes higher than 10 miles.
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