DUBAI: After Iran shot down US drone on Thursday, fear of another US war in the Middle East clouded the region.
The incident sets alarm bells ringing at international level as fear of the heightened tensions into open confrontation mounted. Iran said on Thursday it downed the unmanned aircraft in Iranian airspace. The US said the drone was in the international territory when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
Following the incident, US President Donald Trump ordered to attack Iran only to be withdrawn at the eleventh hours on the night between Thursday and Friday.
Here are the latest updates about the tension.
The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division says a manned US spy plane was near the drone it shot down but Iran chose not to target it.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was addressing a press conference in Tehran.
Hajizadeh said: “At the same moment, another spy aircraft called a P8 was flying close to this drone. That aircraft is manned and has around 35 crew members. Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it. We hit the unmanned aircraft.”
The unmanned drone that was shot down on Thursday was a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk.
Trump confirmed in a series of tweets that he called off retaliatory attacks on three Iranian targets following the downing of the US drone, saying the attacks would not have been a proportionate response.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump said.
His comments appeared to confirm earlier reports by US media outlets which said Washington had prepared to attack Iranian installations in response to the downing of the US drone, only for Trump to order his military to stand down at the last minute.
Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said if Trump did not want war with Tehran, he should ease US-imposed sanctions.
“War and sanctions are two sides of the same coin … If you do not want war, you should do something with the sanctions,” Ashena said in a post on Twitter.
Sanctions on Iran is economic terrorism. We will respond to it by all means necessary. Today’s crisis stems from Washington’s withdrawal from JCPOA, and obstructing real diplomatic overtures. But this process is reversible. Every tangible constructive step will be met in kind.
Washington reimposed punitive sanctions on Iran last year after Trump pulled the US out of a landmark nuclear deal brokered between the Islamic Republic and several other world powers, sending its economy into freefall.
Iran “responds to diplomacy with diplomacy … war with firm defence,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a post on Twitter, in an apparent reaction to earlier remarks made by US special representative on Iran, Brian Hook.
Hook told reporters at a news conference in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, that US diplomacy did not give Iran the right to respond with military force.
He also accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it must meet US diplomacy with diplomacy.