Iranian state television on Thursday released the first images (See below) of what it said was a U.S. unmanned reconnaissance drone downed on Sunday along Iran’s eastern border after it made a brief incursion into its airspace.
The footage shows Iranian military officials inspecting an aerial vehicle resembling a high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel drone. The vehicle appears to be in good shape and with no visible damage.
The chief of the aerospace division of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, said Iranian forces brought the drone down through a “cyber attack.” He said the drone “fell into the trap of electronic warfare unit” who then managed to land it with minimum damage.
Also Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, to protest the drone incident. The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, and Switzerland handles American interests in Iran. The state television said that the ministry demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.
U.S. officials have acknowledged the drone’s loss and described the incident as a major setback to the stealth drone program. They said there are real fears that the Iranians will share the drone technology with China or some other country, but also expressed doubts the Iranians have the expertise to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.
The drone incident came at a time of heightened political tension over Iran’s controversial nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons. The United States and Israel said they were considering “all options” on Tehran, if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.
During a news conference in Washington Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran has a clear choice, to end its pursuit of atomic weapons in favor of a peaceful nuclear program or continue to resist global pressure and face increased isolation.
Mr. Obama said “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is contrary to U.S. security interests, as well as to the national interests of U.S. allies, including Israel, and Washington will work with the world community to prevent that.”
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.