President Donald Trump has called Iran's downing of a U.S. military drone a "very big mistake," fueling fears that simmering tensions between the two countries may boil over into a military conflict.
In a tweet hours after U.S. Central Command said on June 20 that an RQ-4A Global Hawk maritime surveillance drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, Trump said bluntly: "Iran made a very big mistake!"
Later asked whether the United States would strike Iran in retaliation, Trump told reporters, "You'll soon find out."
Iran is disputing the circumstances around the downing of the unmanned aircraft, raising fears of a possible military confrontation amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said on June 20 that it had shot down a U.S. "spy" drone that had turned off its tracking equipment as it flew over the southern province of Hormozgan -- saying the flight was a clear crossing of "our red line."
Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz have exacerbated the situation, with Washington and its ally Saudi Arabia blaming Iran for the incidents. Tehran denies any involvement.
Iran's Foreign Ministry has condemned what it called a “provocative” incursion of the country’s airspace. The United States countered that it was an "unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."
The United States countered that it was an “unprovoked attack” on a surveillance drone in international airspace, insisting the aircraft was shot 34 kilometers from the nearest point of Iranian land.
"This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and the free flow of commerce," said Lieutenant General Joseph Guastella, the commander of U.S. Central Command air forces in the region.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran will doesn’t seek war, but will “zealously defend our skies, land & waters.”
Tehran will “take this new aggression to UN & show that the US is lying,” he added.
Meanwhile, Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen claimed they had struck a power station in Al-Shuqaiq city in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan Province with a cruise missile.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that any use of force by the United States against Iran "would be a disaster for the region."
“The United States has said it would not rule out the use of military force,” Putin said during his annual call-in television program, warning that this would “lead to a surge of violence and possibly an increase in the number of refugees."
Speaking to reporters in London, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Iran’s “aggressive behavior” has created a “very grave” situation, adding that the kingdom was consulting with allies on any further steps.
"When you interfere with international shipping, it has an impact on the supply of energy, it has an impact on the price of oil which has an impact on the world economy," he said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been "briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
"We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies," Sanders said.