Iran says downed US military drone found in its waters as tensions soar

  • The US has sanctioned more than 80% of Iran’s economy, according to secretary of state Michael Pompeo
  • President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled planned airstrikes against Iran for downing the drone

Iran said that the wreckage of an American drone shot down last week was found four miles inside its territorial waters, in one of its most detailed accounts of an incident that brought the two countries to the brink of war.

“After the shooting down of the drone, initial actions were taken and its location was identified," brigadier general Majid Fakhri, the head of the Iranian Armed Forces’ Geographical Organization, was cited as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. “The drone was definitely in the waters of Iran."

President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled planned airstrikes against Iran for downing the drone which US officials say was flying through international airspace as West Asia risked a devastating new conflict. But tensions have continued to escalate with the two countries trading threats and insults.

Trump on Tuesday vowed to meet any Iranian strike on the US with overwhelming force, while Iran said the path to a diplomatic solution to the crisis had closed after its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other top officials were sanctioned. It also characterized the White House as suffering from a “mental disorder."

Tensions have spiked in the Gulf since May, when the Trump administration revoked waivers on the import of Iranian oil, squeezing its economy a year after the US walked away from the landmark 2015 deal meant to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon. Since then, a spate of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping chokepoint, have convulsed the region and pushed up oil prices. Iran denies involvement in the attacks on shipping.

The new penalties are unlikely to have a significant impact on a country that’s already in recession due to stringent US sanctions on its oil sector and has been largely shut out of the global financial system. The US has sanctioned more than 80% of Iran’s economy, according to secretary of state Michael Pompeo, who was in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week to rally a front against Iran.

Still, the targeting of Khamenei shocked some Iranians because he’s considered a spiritual guide and a holy man by his most devoted followers.

In his first comments since being sanctioned, Khamenei on Wednesday said the additional pressure by a “cruel enemy" wouldn’t impact his country.

Trump has coupled his “maximum pressure" campaign of sanctions with invitations to sit down with Iranian leaders. In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, the president said that he thinks Iranian leaders want to negotiate and he’s willing to talk with no preconditions except that the outcome must be Iran acquiring no nuclear weapons.

The 2015 nuclear deal was designed to thwart any Iranian attempt to develop an atomic bomb, and international inspectors had repeatedly reported Iran complying with the terms of the accord.

European powers are now attempting to convince Iran to continue abiding by the deal after Iranian officials warned the country would breach the deal’s cap on stockpiles of low-grade uranium by 27 June.

The UK ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, said on Wednesday that extensive work was underway to boost a special mechanism designed to protect European trade with Iran from US sanctions and ease the economic pressure on Iranians.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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