Iran-US tensions: All the latest updates | USA News

Fears of war between the United States and Iran have intensified after a US drone was shot down by Iranian forces.

Iran said on Thursday it downed the unmanned aircraft in Iranian airspace. The US said the drone was in international territory when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile.

The fast moving events have provoked international alarm and prompted concern the standoff could escalate into a major open confrontation.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, June 22

Trump eyes more sanctions on Iran, military action still on table

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House said he will impose additional sanctions against Iran in an effort to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, adding that military action was still a possibility.

Iran foreign minister tweets map with detailed coordinates of drone

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a map with detailed coordinates which he said show a US drone shot down by Iran was within the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters.

The map also showed two yellow squares on the flight path of the drone which, according to the map, indicate Iranian radio warnings sent to the drone.

“There can be no doubt about where the vessel was when it was brought down,” Zarif wrote.

Iranian man executed for allegedly spying for CIA

An Iranian man has been executed by the state for allegedly spying for the CIA, Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB reported.

The man was employed in the space division of Iran’s Defence Ministry. He and his wife were arrested in 2010 for spying for the CIA after authorities alleged that “clear evidence” was discovered in their apartment.

The man was sentenced to death in a military court after years-long investigations, and his wife to 15 years in prison.

Germany’s Merkel calls for a political solution to US-Iran tensions 

The international community should work towards a political solution to the escalating conflict between the US and Iran “with the utmost seriousness,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Dortmund.

“I say that [a political solution] should not just be a hope, but that it should be worked towards with the utmost seriousness,” Merkel said, adding that the conflict would most likely be at the top of the agenda at next week’s G20 summit in Osaka.     

Iran summons UAE envoy over US drone

Iran has summoned the UAE’s top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighbouring Arab nation’s allowing the US to use a base there to launch a drone that Iran says entered its airspace.

The report by the official IRNA news agency said Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory.

Trump nominates Mark Esper as secretary of defense

Trump has nominated Mark Esper to be the US Secretary of Defense, the White House said late on Friday.

Esper will take over as acting defense secretary on Monday following the resignation of Patrick Shanahan, who is stepping down after media reports emerged this week of domestic violence in his family.

Esper, who must be confirmed by the Senate is the third man to lead the Pentagon in six months.

Unlike Shanahan who had no military experience, Esper served in the first Gulf War, worked as an aide on Capitol Hill, and spent seven years as vice president for government relations at defense contractor Raytheon.

There hasn’t been a full defense secretary since the resignation of James Mattis in December last year after splits in the administration over Trump’s sudden decision to remove US troops from Syria.

Senate Armed Services Committee UNITED STATES - MARCH 26: Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee

Mark Esper (left) is the third man to lead the Pentagon in six months [Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call]

UK minister to visit Iran on Sunday for talks

Britain’s Middle East minister Andrew Murrison will visit Iran on Sunday for “frank and constructive” talks, Britain said.

“At this time of increased regional tensions and at a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal, this visit is an opportunity for further open, frank and constructive engagement with the government of Iran,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Murrison will call for urgent de-escalation in the region and raise concerns about “Iran’s regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed.”

Iran says its airspace is fully safe and secure

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said the country’s airspace was safe for airlines to fly through, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

“Iran-controlled airspace over the Persian Gulf and other flight routes are completely safe,” its spokesman, Reza Jafarzadeh, was quoted as saying.

The US Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday issued an emergency order prohibiting US operators from flying in an oversea area of Tehran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. Some other international airlines are taking related precautions.

Iran to ‘confront any threat’, as Trump warns of ‘obliteration’

‘Obliteration like you’ve never seen before’

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” conducted on Friday morning at the White House, Trump said he had not given final approval to strikes against Iran.

“But they would have been pretty soon. And things would have happened to a point where you wouldn’t turn back or couldn’t turn back,” he said, adding that he did not want war with Iran, but if it came to pass, there would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before”.

Iran says it will respond firmly to any US threat

Iran will respond firmly to any US threat against it, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said, after US President Donald Trump warned Iran of “obliteration” if a full-scale conflict would ensue.

“We will not allow any violation against Iran’s borders. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” spokesperson Abbas Mousavi told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday.

Friday, June 21

US regional bases are in range of Iranian missiles, says IRGC 

A commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said US regional bases and its aircraft carrier in the Gulf are within the range of Iranian precision-guided missiles.

“US forces in the region were a threat, but they are now an opportunity [for Iran] … They do not talk about war with Iran, because they know how susceptible they are,” the head of the IRGC’ aerospace division, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said on state television

US poised to tighten sanctions on Iran over “terror financing”

The US is set to increase pressure on Iran for failing to head off funds to “terrorists”, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, threatening new sanctions if Tehran fails to comply. 

In a speech in Florida, Mnuchin called out “Iran’s willful failure to address its systemic money laundering and terrorist financing deficiencies”. 

He said an international task force will set a new deadline for the country to comply or face additional sanctions.

Mnuchin also said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would call for suspended sanctions to be reimposed “if Iran does not make further progress,” and would require “increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran.”

Trump discusses Iran with Saudi crown prince

US President Trump has discussed escalating tensions between the US and Iran with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behaviour,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional enemies.

Debris from what Iran's Revolutionary Guard aerospace division describes as the U.S. drone which was shot down on Thursday is displayed in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 21, 2019. Major airlines from aro

Debris from what Iran’s Revolutionary Guard aerospace division describes as the US drone which was shot down on Thursday [Borna Ghasemi/AP]

Pelosi wasn’t informed of nixed Iran attack plan

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was not given a heads-up about the planned US military action against Iran. Pelosi is second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence.

Calling for de-escalating the conflict, Pelosi said any “hostilities” with Iran “must not be initiated without the approval of Congress”. 

“We are in an extremely dangerous and sensitive situation with Iran,” she said, adding that she was glad Trump called off the planned attacks on Iran. 

Call for diplomacy as US, Iran reach ‘tense tipping point’

The US and Iran are at a “tense tipping point”, where both sides have escalated tensions to the threshold of an open conflict, an analyst said, calling for diplomacy to resolve the crisis. 

“So far we’ve been under the threshold of war. Downing of an unmanned spy drone is also something that is under the threshold of war, and that’s why we have seen restraint.

“We’ve seen restraint on the Iranian side, with the Iranians saying they are unwilling to hit a manned aircraft, which was also flying in that area. And at the same time, we also see Donald Trump exercising restraint,” said Andreas Krieg, lecturer at School of Security Studies at Kings College London. 

“That’s because he’s going into election in 2020 and he knows a war in the Middle East is highly unpopular with his base and across the country. And he himself has said he is not interested in another military escalation or a major combat operation.” 

Krieg added: “Only now Trump realizes that his massive pressure campaign also has such massive consequences that this is no longer something you can control. The only way forward out of this should be a diplomatic approach after all that coercion we’ve seen from both sides.” 

US asks for UN Security Council meeting

The US has asked the UN Security Council to meet on Iran behind closed-doors on Monday, diplomats told Reuters news agency.

“We will brief the council on the latest developments with regard to Iran and present further information from our investigation into the recent tanker incidents,” the US mission to the UN said in a note to council colleagues.

World leaders appeal for calm as US-Iran tensions escalate to ‘brink of war’

Countries across the world appealed for de-escalation, with Russia accusing the US of deliberately stoking tensions with Iran and pushing the situation “to the brink of war”. European leaders urged caution as a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Trump’s decision to pull back from a retaliatory attack. 

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “nerves of steel”. 

Read more here

Revolutionary Guard official: Iran chose not to hit second craft

The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said a manned US spy plane was near the drone it shot down but Iran chose not to target it.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the comment Friday at a news conference attended by The Associated Press in Tehran.

Hajizadeh said: “At the same moment, another spy aircraft called a P8 was flying close to this drone. That aircraft is manned and has around 35 crew members. Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it. We hit the unmanned aircraft.”

Trump confirms calling off attacks against Iran

Trump confirmed in a series of tweets that he called off retaliatory attacks on three Iranian targets following the downing of the US drone, saying the attacks would not have been a proportionate response.

We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump said.

His comments confirmed earlier reports by US media outlets which said Washington had prepared to attack Iranian installations in response to the downing of the US drone, only for Trump to order his military to stand down at the last minute.

Rouhani adviser says Trump should ease sanctions to avoid war

Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said if Trump did not want war with Tehran, he should ease US-imposed sanctions.

“War and sanctions are two sides of the same coin … If you do not want war, you should do something with the sanctions,” Ashena said in a post on Twitter.

Washington reimposed punitive sanctions on Iran last year after Trump pulled the US out of a landmark nuclear deal brokered between the Islamic Republic and several other world powers, sending its economy into freefall. 

‘Diplomacy with diplomacy, war with defence’: Iran rebuffs US criticism

Iran “responds to diplomacy with diplomacy … war with firm defence,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a post on Twitter, in an apparent reaction to earlier remarks made by US special representative on Iran, Brian Hook.

Hook told reporters at a news conference in Saudi Arabia‘s capital, Riyadh, that US diplomacy did not give Iran the right to respond with military force.

He also accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it must meet US diplomacy with diplomacy.

Global airlines rerout flights after Iran downs US drone 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based carrier Emirates Airlines was rerouting flights away from areas of possible conflict in the Gulf amid the heightened US-Iran tensions, a spokeswoman for the company said.

“The re-routings have minimally affected the arrival/departure timings of some flights,” the spokeswoman said, without naming specific countries or provinces that are being avoided.

“We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and … will make further operational changes if the need arises,” she added.

The move came after several other airlines – including Dutch carrier KLM, Australian airline Qantas, German airline Lufthansa and UK carrier British Airways – also said they would fly alternative routes to skirt the Gulf region following an earlier warning to pilots issued by the US’s Federal Aviation Administration.

Iran has no right to answer diplomacy ‘with military force’: US

Brian Hook, US special representative on Iran, accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it had no right to respond to diplomacy “with military force”.

“Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy,” Hook told reporters in Saudi Arabia, where he met with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy defence minister.

“Iran is responsible for escalating tensions in the region. They continue to reject diplomatic overtures to de-escalate tensions,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, bin Salman said in a tweet he had discussed the latest “Iranian attacks” with Hook during the pair’s meeting, adding he had “affirmed the kingdom’s support” for Washington’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.

Iran says it issued warnings before shooting US drone

Iranian state television broadcast images of what it said was debris from the downed US drone recovered inside its territorial waters.

The broadcast showed a short clip of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general answering journalists’ questions in front of some of the debris that he said had been recouped from Iranian waters.

Iran gave two warnings before downing the US drone over the Gulf of Oman, said Brigadier-General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC’s aerospace arm.

“Unfortunately, when they failed to reply … and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory … we were obliged to shoot it down,” Hajizadeh said.

The purported wreckage of the American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2019

The purported wreckage of the American drone was displayed by the IRGC in Tehran [Tasnim News Agency handout via Reuters]

Trump calls for talks with Iran via Oman: Reuters

Iranian officials told the Reuters news agency that Tehran received a message from Trump through Oman overnight on Thursday that warned a US attack was imminent.

“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues … He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision… However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”

Iranian officials later refuted the Reuters story.

Iran summons Swiss envoy 

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who also represents US interests in the Islamic Republic, to protest against what it claims was a “very dangerous provocation” by Washington over the drone incident.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Iranian officials told Swiss envoy Markus Leitner that Washington would be responsible for the consequences of any military action taken against it.


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