Iranian officials promise “terrifying response” to further violations of Iranian territory, after drone incident

Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Division of the IRGC

Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Division of the IRGC

The Islamic Republic of Iran has begun to reveal more information about the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which it alleges it brought down in Iranian airspace using electronic warfare. The Iranian government has released a video of what it claims to be downed US drone. Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated that:

“Recently, with collected intelligence and close electronic surveillance it was determined that this plane intended to penetrate and spy on our country. After the entry of this plane into the eastern part of our country… [it] fell into electronic trap set by the [Iranian] armed forces and was landed with minimum damage.”

Hajizadeh said that the Sentinal represented some of the latest hardware in US drone technology, and that it would be used to improve Iran’s own drones. Iran’s claims to have brought down the drone using electronic warfare has created speculation around whether the aircraft shown on Iranian television is real, and if so whether it came down as a result of a malfunction or Iranian interference. Given the limitations of Iran’s own technological capabilities, Chinese or Russian assistance in advancing Iran’s electronic warfare capabilities cannot be ruled out. Likewise, if Iran has in fact managed to capture a relatively intact Sentinel drone then China and Russia will also likely be beneficiaries.

There are now indications of how Iran intends to respond to the incident. Mohammad Kowsari, deputy head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis, Iran’s legislature, asked rhetorically in an interview with Fars News Agency:

“Our question is that if this plane belonged to Iran and violated American territory, how many sessions would the [United Nations] Security Council and international community have and how many resolutions would they issue against Iran?”

“We would like to warn the international community that if American spy planes violate Iranian territory again, we will give a terrifying response to America…If Americans enter Iranian territory with military planes and fighters, we will permit ourselves to target all American military bases around the world, such that no American military force will be safe…”

Iran’s representative to the Security Council, Mohammad Khazaei, expressed outrage over the incident in an interview with CNN and in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also summoned the Swiss Ambassador in Tehran, whose embassy houses the US Interest Section there (the US has had no other formal diplomatic representation in the country since 1979), and formally lodged complaint.

This episode is another in a line of recent escalations, moves, and counter-moves by Iran and the US and their respective allies in an increasingly tense conflict which some have described as a “cold war”. During a time when Iran appears to be the target of covert warfare (which has included sabotage and assassination), this appears to be one small victory for Iran.