The United States Navy has refuted Iran's claim that the Islamic Republic's military forces have captured an American unmanned aerial reconnaissance drone that allegedly violated Iranian airspace.
The New York Timesreports that Iranian state television broadcast images of the intact ScanEagle being inspected by Iranian Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. Fadavi commands the naval branch of the elite Revolutionary Guards. The small drone was displayed in front of a map of the region with English and Farsi captions reading "We shall trample on the US."
"The new US failure in spying operation by this drone demonstrated that the US government, despite its high military and economic power and its dominance on the world political order, is not capable of confronting the Islamic Iran," Brigadier General Hossein Salami, second-in-command among the Revolutionary Guards, told Iran's Press TV.
"Iran can easily undo all [American] plans," Gen. Salami added.
Adm. Fadavi claimed that Iran's forces had brought down the ScanEagle by forcing it to land electronically. The undamaged craft as seen on Iranian television suggests that it was not shot down, but had rather been hacked.
The US Navy denied that Iran had captured any of its drones.
"The US Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region," a spokesman for the Navy's Central Command told Reuters in Bahrain. "Our operations in the [Persian] Gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and airspace. We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently."
ScanEagle drones, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, are used not only by the Navy but also by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, as well as by multiple Gulf kingdoms.
The White House, while not denying that Iran had captured an American drone, said it had "no evidence that the Iranian claims are true."
Last month, a pair of Iranian SU-25 fighter jets fired on a US Predator drone over the Persian Gulf. US corporate mainstream media outlets reported that the drone was flying over international waters; Iran's government-controlled media said the unmanned craft had violated the country's airspace.
If the Iranian claims are true, then violations of sovereign airspace could constitute acts of war. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as the country's foreign minister, warned Washington against any further aggression.
"Our enemies should open their eyes," Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday. "They may be able to take a few steps forward, but in the end we will make them retreat behind their own border."
"We had announced to the Americans that according to international conventions, we would not allow them to invade our territories, but unfortunately they did not comply," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told state television. "We had objected to the Americans before, but they claimed they were not present in our territories."
"We will use this drone to pursue a legal case against America in international forums," Salehi vowed.
Last December, Iran captured an intact, state-of-the-art Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel drone that the US says crashed but Iranian officials said was hacked and forced to land. The highly advanced aircraft was brought down while flying over Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 km) from the Afghan border.