Iran warns US it could down more drones as Pompeo arrives in Persian Gulf

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks Sunday to the media at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, before boarding a plane headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks Sunday to the media at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, before boarding a plane headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/24/2019 10:13 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iran's navy chief warned the United States on Monday that Iranian forces could shoot down more surveillance drones if they violate the country's airspace, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia for talks with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf.

"The enemy dispatched its most sophisticated ... and most complicated surveillance aircraft" to spy on Iran, and "everyone saw the downing of the drone," Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi said Monday, referring to the U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk drone shot down by Iran last week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The incident capped a week of tensions following attacks on two commercial tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on June 13. The United States blamed the attacks on Iran, which has denied involvement.

Khanzadi said the downing of the drone last week could "always be repeated, and the enemy knows it," the Tasnim News Agency reported.

The naval commander's remarks came amid a diplomatic push by the Trump administration to rally regional and other allies around what Pompeo described Sunday as a "global coalition" to confront Iran.

Pompeo met Monday with the Saudi leader, King Salman, "to discuss heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz," he said on Twitter.

In two separate incidents in May and in June, a total of six commercial vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway for global oil shipments, were targeted in attacks.

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The State Department's Iran envoy, Brian Hook, was in Oman's capital Muscat for meetings he also characterized as focused on building a multinational force to protect shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf, he said in a conference call with reporters.

He has met with officials in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and was en route to Bahrain as part of the initiative, he said.

Also Monday, President Donald Trump lamented on Twitter that the United States was "protecting the shipping lanes" in the strait "for other countries ... for zero compensation." It was unclear whether his sentiments reflected the conversations that U.S. diplomats were having with allies in the region.

"All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been ... a dangerous journey," he said, adding that China and Japan get most of their energy imports through the strait.

"We don't even need to be there," Trump said, citing energy production in the United States. "The U.S. request for Iran is very simple -- No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Trump said over the weekend that he would speak to Iran without preconditions and that his chief concern was preventing Iran's government from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear accord that was negotiated between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, and that set restrictions on the country's atomic energy program.

Trump last week said that he authorized a military strike against Iran in response to the downing of the drone but aborted the mission at the last minute to avoid Iranian casualties.

His singular focus on the nuclear issue appeared at odds with his administration's "maximum pressure campaign," which seeks to roll back Iranian influence in the region and persuade it give up its ballistic missile program and support for proxy forces in places such as Iraq and Syria.

In his conference call with reporters Monday, Hook said the United States was "looking for a deal [with Iran] that is truly comprehensive" and that addresses "the spectrum of threats to peace and security that Iran represents."

He said such an agreement would include Iran's nuclear program, its ballistic missiles, regional activities and the detention of dual nationals.

"They know where to find us," Hook said.

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