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article imageObama asks Iran to return downed stealth drone, but Iran says no

By JohnThomas Didymus     Dec 13, 2011 in World
Washington - The Obama administration has formally requested Iran to return the U.S. stealth drone that it claims it downed. But the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has demanded that the U.S. apologize to Iran instead.
The U.S. drone appears to have been spying on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program and Iran has lodged a complaint with the United Nations that the U.S. drone had violated its airspace. According to Iran's U.N. ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, in a letter he wrote to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the drone flew 250 kilometers (150 miles) into Iranian territory "to the northern region of the city of Tabas." According to the Iranian official in the letter to the UN, "My government emphasizes that this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter."
U.S. President Obama, speaking to reporters on Monday, declined to comment on what he called "intelligence matters that are classified." Obama, however, revealed that the U.S. government has asked Iran to return the drone. Obama said that the U.S. was waiting to see "how the Iranians respond." VOA News reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said that given Iran's past behavior the U.S. was not expecting them to comply. Daily Mail reports Clinton said: "We submitted a formal request for the return of our lost equipment as we would in any situation to any government around the world. Given Iran's behaviour to date we do not expect them to comply but we are dealing with all of these provocations and concerning actions taken by Iran in close concert with our closest allies and partners."
CNN reports that Iran has vowed not to return the drone. Deputy commander of Iran's military General Hossein Salami said, "No nation welcomes other countries' spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin. It makes no difference where this drone originated and which group or country sent it to invade our airspace. This was an act of invasion and belligerence."
Digital Journal reports Iran claimed that its security personnel brought down the drone in Iran's eastern border. U.S. officials continue denying that the Iranians brought it down. CNN reports aviation analyst Bill Sweetman, said the condition of the drone shows that it was not shot down but that it suffered a systems failure. According to the analyst, there were no burn marks from fire, no holes and no obvious outward damage, though there was a dent along the leading edge.
Some critics say, however, that it does not matter now whether the Iranians downed the drone or whether it suffered a systems failure; what matters now is that the Iranians have it and that it is significant intelligence loss to the U.S.
Iran also claims that its military experts are extracting data from the aircraft systems. According to the Daily Mail, Iran is boasting that it plans to "reverse-engineer" the drone. Parviz Sorouri, head of Iran's Parliamentary national security committee, said: "Our next action will be to reverse-engineer the aircraft. In the near future, we will be able to mass produce it ... Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American [drone] using reverse engineering."
General Salami said that those who think that Iran cannot reproduce the drone technology are underestimating Iran's technological capabilities in the field of unmanned crafts. Gen Salami spoke of the capture of the drone as a "victory for Iran and a defeat for the U.S. in a complicated intelligence and technological battle." The general said: "Iran is among the few countries that possesses the most modern technology in the field of pilotless drones. The technology gap between Iran and the US is not much."
In spite of the Iranians bragging, nobody seems to believe they have the technology to reproduce the drone, but the U.S. is worried they might allow the Russians or the Chinese access to the drone. But Sorouri has been boasting: "We will not need Russian or Chinese cooperation to copy the drone. They will definitely not be involved. This great defensive capability is reserved for us, and we are not ready to share it with others. We will use this capability as a deterrence. And I doubt the Islamic republic would share this technology with other countries."
Though U.S. experts doubt the Iranians could study and reproduce the drone, the U.S. has admitted that loss of the drone to Iran was major setback to its stealth drone program. There are fears that the Iranians, without Russian or Chinese help, may be able to reproduce certain aspects of the design of the drone, including its coating and design for evading enemy radar. Daily Mail reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, told reporters that it was difficult to guess "just frankly how much they're going to be able to get from having obtained those parts."
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, on Monday, criticized Obama. According to Cheney, Obama should have ordered an airstrike to destroy the drone. Cheney said: "The right response to that would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down and destroy it. You can do that from the air...and, in effect, make it impossible for them to benefit from having captured that drone...Instead he is asking nicely for them to return it, and they aren't going to."
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