Nov. 12, 2012
By Jim Garamone
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT (American Forces Press Service) – The attempted shootdown of an unmanned U.S. Predator aircraft is the latest example of a pattern of disturbing behavior by Iran, and the United States will take “a measured response,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
In an interview during a travel leg of an overseas trip, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the Nov. 1 attack on the unarmed Predator intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft over the Arabian Gulf was “clearly a hostile act.”
An Iranian Frogfoot aircraft fired on the Predator at least twice, but the American craft escaped unharmed and returned to its base.
Iranian officials charge that the Predator was in Iranian airspace. “We’re absolutely certain that we were within international airspace, so their attack on the unmanned Predator – despite their assertions otherwise – was clearly a hostile act against our assets,” Dempsey said.
The U.S. government has informed the Iranian government that this behavior is unacceptable. The U.S. military will continue to fly these missions and will protect the aircraft, Dempsey said.
Iran is one of a few nations in the world that calculates its water boundaries using the “straight baseline assertion.” Libya used this assertion in the mid-1980s to say it controlled the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. The rest of the international community follows the 12-nautical-mile territorial water limit that follows the contours of the coastline.
“We’ve made it clear for decades, actually, that we don’t accept Iran’s straight baseline assertion,” Dempsey said. “Were we to do so, it would make the space inside the Arabian Gulf so constricted that it would be unnavigable.”
This latest incident in a long-line of disturbing activities by Iran is disturbing to U.S. officials, Dempsey said. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, he noted, supplying arms to Hezbollah. And Iranian officials “are sponsoring the Syrian regime, they traffic in arms and weapons, they are very active in cyber, and they are on a path – despite international pressure – to develop nuclear energy that could be weaponized,” he said.
Iranian officials plotted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador on U.S. soil and have threatened to mine the Straits of Hormuz, a transit point for the world’s oil.
The international community has imposed tough diplomatic and economic sanctions on Iran, and Dempsey said he believes the sanctions are working. He added that he does not know if the latest incident signifies a regime that is lashing out in frustration.
“It’s very difficult to see inside a nation and see their intent,” he said, “but there is clearly a pattern, and I think it’s one we have to keep an eye on.”