On 20 June, international media sources reported that Iran shot down an American drone that was flying over the Strait of Hormuz, in what the Islamic Republic considered its own territory.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) said the aircraft had violated Iranian airspace, and that the incident sent a “clear message to America.” In comments carried live on Iranian state television, General Hossein Salami also said that Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war.” Iran has made veiled threats on U.S. air assets in the recent past. A day earlier, a senior Iranian security official told media sources that Iran would “strongly respond” if its airspace was violated. “Our airspace is our red line and Iran has always responded and will continue to respond strongly to any country that violates our airspace,” the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security council said in an interview with state television.
But the U.S. military insisted the drone had been over international waters at the time. An anonymous U.S. official told the Reuters news agency that the aircraft was shot down in neutral airspace over the Strait of Hormuz —not in Iran’s airspace— by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The same sources condemned what it called an “unprovoked attack” by the IRGC.
Official government sources have yet to respond to the incident. When asked about the claims that Iran shot down an American drone, Captain Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, declined to comment. However, he did tell reporters that “there was no drone over Iranian territory.”
Hormuz has always been at the center of the schism between the U.S. and Iran. Twenty percent of all world oil exports flow through the narrow waterway. Any disruption —or even news of likely disruption— could significantly influence global oil prices. If the Strait was rendered completely out of use, it could actually cause a major energy crisis in the region and be devastating to the economies of other oil exporters.