Just days after the top US commander sketched out plans to strike Iran, the US military claims Tehran sent a drone into Iraq in February.
The US military on Monday claimed that American jets had shot down an Iranian unmanned surveillance aircraft 97 kilometers northeast of Baghdad in February.
The Ababil 3 was tracked for about 70 minutes before it was shot down “well inside Iraqi airspace”, reads a statement from the army.
The statement also suggests that the aircraft’s presence over Iraq “was not an accident”.
The US claim comes just two days after Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke of the next possible US target — Iran.
“What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it’s the unintended consequences,” Mullen said.
“We’ve got a very strong strategic reserve in our Air Force and in our Navy and in fact that’s a part of the world, it’s a maritime part of the world, where the emphasis would certainly be on those two forces,” he told Charlie Rose.
Iran on Tuesday said it has no information of the alleged drone, which has been described as a surveillance and intelligence-gathering plane with a maximum range of about 150 kilometers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told reporters in Tehran that the ministry was unaware of the incident mentioned in the “vague report” issued by the US military.
The US has time and again accused Iran of stirring violence in neighboring Iraq, claiming that the country supplies groups opposed to US military presence with weapons, training and money.
Iran has denied links to militant groups inside Iraq, citing the US occupation as the main reason behind the instability of the oil-rich country.
The US, Israel and their European allies accuse Tehran, a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of having plans to develop nuclear weaponry.
While the Bush administration employed go-to-war rhetoric against Iran on a regular basis, the Obama administration says it seeks a different approach.
Echelons in Tel Aviv, however, have been lobbying the US in an effort to coax President Barack Obama into joining Israel in attacking Iran.
The new drone claim come as Israeli army chief of staff Lieutenant Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi was in the United States on Monday to sell the idea of launching air strikes on Iranian nuclear installations as a “concrete” option.