While the US still denies loss of a drone, Tehran has now threatened international legal action against Washington over the alleged interception of a US spy drone in Iran airspace. (Updated).
As reported on Digital Journal, a US ScanEagle drone, allegedly recently intercepted over the Persian Gulf by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was shown in a video broadcast on Iran's Press TV on December 4.
The drone does not appear to be visibly damaged and apparently, if the drone was manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, the lack of damage indicates it was not shot down, but was ‘hooked’ intact and brought to the ground.
IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, who made the official announcement on the drone’s capture, did not specify the exact date it had been intercepted.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced on Tuesday that Iran now has proof of the presence of US spy drones over Iranian territory and thus evidence of illegal spying on Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran now wishes to take this evidence to an international court, as international law forbids the violation of national borders, as Tehran had warned the US before.
Salehi told the national media, “We had formally protested such actions by the US and had announced that we would defend our borders by any means possible, but unfortunately they did not comply.”
“We had told the Americans that according to international conventions, we would not allow them to violate our borders, but unfortunately they did not comply… Of course, we had objected to the Americans before, but they claimed they were not present in our territories. We will use this drone as evidence to pursue a legal case against the US invasion at relevant international bodies,” he added.
According to Reuters, Iran has extracted the data from the drone and confirms that it was, indeed, spying on Iran's nuclear program.
"We have fully extracted the drone's information," the IRGC said in a statement on Wednesday.
This isn't the first time that Tehran has intercepted a US-made drone. In December 2011, Iran intercepted and hacked a top-secret US RQ-170 ‘Sentinel’ stealth drone on a mission above the northeastern Iranian city Kashmar.
Tehran at that stage did not consider international law, as it considered this far too precious to return to the US and they kept the drone and allegedly reverse-engineered it, despite repeated threats by Washington.
The only legal move by Iran was to lodge a complaint to the United Nations about the US violation of Iranian airspace.
However, in the latest case, the ScanEagle, is not secret technology; and the aircraft has been in extensive use by the US military since at least 2004. With a wingspan of 3 meters and a portable weight, it is also a convenient size to easily be delivered to the international court in Geneva.
The latest incident comes as the Wall Street Journal published a report revealing that Washington has “significantly stepped up spying operations” on Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant over the last two months. Iran is well aware of the numerous US attempts to spy on Bushehr – there were at least two reported incidents in November where Iran repelled airborne intruders.
In the meantime, the US continues to deny that a drone has been lost in Iran.
From Huffington Post's "Iranathon": Ismael Kowsari, head of Iran's Defense Committee told Associated Press, "We have material evidence to prove that the drone we captured belongs to the US."
"The unmanned aircraft took off from a warship. The Americans will have no choice but to confirm that one of their drones is missing, he added."
On the subject of rumors that the drone is of UAE origin, Kowsari said, "The UAE doesn't dare to engage in such activities against us. We have sufficient evidence to prove it is American. The capture of the drone demonstrates Iran's capability of bringing down such aircraft intact."