Well, those evil Iranians are at it again. Now they’ve gone and shot at a U.S. drone. This is obviously the action of a rogue state.
That’s the narrative we’re supposed to accept, at least. What happened, from what information is available, was that, on November 1, the U.S. was flying a drone on a classified reconnaissance mission off the coast of Iran, just four miles outside of Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, and two Iranian jets fired apparent warning shots at the vehicle. CNN, which first reported the incident, told the story this way:
Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf on November 1, the Pentagon disclosed on Thursday. The incident … raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.
It quoted Pentagon Press Secretary George Little saying:
Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace. It was always flying in international air space. The recognized limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast and we never entered the 12 nautical mile limit.
Reuters quoted Little adding:
There is absolutely no precedence for this. This is the first time that a (drone) has been fired upon to our knowledge by Iranian aircraft.
The report on the CNN website states towards the end:
U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing it down.
But as one of the officials said, “it doesn’t matter, they fired on us.”
Little said the United States has to assume Iran was trying to bring down the Predator.
The Reuters article similarly noted:
Many questions about the incident remain, including why Iranian warplanes could not manage – if they wanted – to shoot down an unarmed drone, which lacks advanced capabilities to outmaneuver them.
Asked whether the Iranian aircraft were simply firing warning shots, Little said: “Our working assumption is that they fired to take it down. You’ll have to ask the Iranians why they engaged in this action.”
There was no immediate comment by Iranian officials.
CNN reporter Barbara Starr, who broke the story, said that Pentagon officials “just don’t know what the Iranians were really up to, were they just out to cause trouble, or were they really trying to bring down that U.S. drone”, which comment was followed by a discussion of whether or not the Iranian action constituted an act of war.
So that’s it; the two possibilities are either that Iran tried but failed to shoot down the drone, or they were not trying to shoot it down but were nevertheless “just out to cause trouble”. The possibility that Iran could have a legitimate concern motivating them to warn a U.S. drone away from its airspace is nonexistent. There is just no possibility that Iran could have had anything other than malevolent intentions, according to the official media narrative.
At the Washington Post, Max Fischer provided a map of where the incident might have occurred (in red):
[I]t’s worth considering how that proximity might be perceived by an Iranian leadership that already feels under siege and threatened by the much more powerful United States. Last year, a U.S. drone crashed 140 miles within Iran’s eastern border.
Indeed, it is worth considering. But notice that while this might be an acceptable sentiment on a blog, one is unlikely to see any front page news stories about the incident that include any attempt to empathize with the Iranians. At best, Iran is “just out to cause trouble”. But if we do take Fischer’s advice and consider how the Iranians might feel about it, as a simple thought experiment, one might imagine what would happen to an Iranian reconnaissance drone if it was caught flying 16 miles off the coast of the U.S., say, around about here:
We might also consider that the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the brutal Shah regime, supported Iraq in a bloody war of aggression against Iran, shot down an Iranian civilian passenger plane in Iranian airspace killing all 290 people aboard, has been continuously bombing countries with its drones and has already been flying drones within Iranian airspace, has repeatedly reminded Iran that “all options are on the table” to deal with its nuclear program, has laid “crippling” sanctions on Iran that are collectively punishing the civilian population, has an only thinly veiled policy of seeking regime change, has invaded neighbors on both sides of Iran, and has Iran completely surrounded by its military.
As this humorous image that has made the rounds on Facebook aptly puts it:
One might also recollect another incident earlier this year in the Persian Gulf for comparison. On July 16, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on an Indian fishing boat as it was returning to port in Dubai, killing one man and injuring three others. U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet spokesman Lt. Greg Raelson defended the action by saying:
Our ships have an inherent right to self-defense against lethal threats.
The same George Little, Pentagon spokesman, offered:
We certainly regret the loss of life in this incident.
But no apology was offered. 28-year-old Muthu Muniraj was shot in his legs with the U.S. warship’s .50-caliber gun. While in the hospital, he told Reuters:
We had no warning at all from the ship, we were speeding up to try and go around them and then suddenly we got fired at…. We know warning signs and sounds and there were none; it was very sudden. My friend was killed, he’s gone. I don’t understand what happened.
35-year-old Muthu Kannan, who suffered gunshot wounds “to the abdomen and a lower leg wired into place with metal rods”, said:
We were fishing and then on the way back they started shooting at us, so many shots, like a storm.
26-year-old Pandu Sanadhan said:
This is not the first time for us to go out in the boat and we all know what a warning is…. All I can remember is a lot of shooting.
The Indian ambassador in the UAE, M.K. Lokesh, said:
Obviously if they were warned they would not go close to such a big vessel. Even if shots were fired in the air, these fishermen would have moved away.
One of the men explained:
When we came close, we slowed down to let [the USNS Rappahannock] pass to avoid any accidents. Once we crossed them from behind, they started firing at us. Usually, we know alarms and sirens are sounded by ships. But there were no warnings.
Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, stated:
The primary investigation confirms that the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger.
He also said:
Lives have been taken… We are treating this incident as a murder case.
Yet there was no CNN commentary asking whether the Americans had intentionally tried to harm these civilians, or whether they were out “just out to cause trouble” and took their provocation just a little too far. In fact, the incident received little attention at all in the U.S. media. As another simple thought experiment, one can imagine the front page headlines that would occur had an Iranian warship in the Persian Gulf fired on a civilian fishing boat and killed or injured those aboard.
The Fars News agency had this cartoon about the incident:
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had this to say about the murder and injury of the Indian fishermen by the U.S. Navy:
We have announced time and again that the presence of foreign forces can be a threat to regional security.
Those silly Iranians. What they clearly fail to understand is that the U.S. owns the world.