Part 2: Iran Responds to Drone Incident

Iranian officials disputed the Pentagon’s claim that the U.S. drone was shot down over international waters late on June 19. Iran claimed that it only fired on the RQ-4 Global Hawk after it violated its air space and did not respond to radio warnings. "At that time since it was a spy drone, [we] were left with no other option," Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told NPR News on June 20. Tehran called the incident a U.S. provocation but said it was not interested in a conflict. 

Iran also claimed that it refrained from shooting down a U.S. military aircraft with 35 people on board. “With the U.S. drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC aerospace division. The following are Iranian statements on the incident. 


Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi

June 20 letter to the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres


Upon instructions from my Government, I am writing to inform you about another unlawful and yet a very dangerous and provocative act by the U.S. military forces against the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at 00:14 hours local time on Thursday 20 June 2019, a U.S. unmanned aircraft system, taken off from one of the bases of the U.S. military forces in the South of the Persian Gulf, conducted an overflight through the Strait of Hormuz to Chabahar port in a full stealth mode as it had turned off its identification equipment and engaged in a clear spying operation. When the aircraft was returning towards the western parts of the region near the Strait of Hormuz, despite repeated radio warnings, it entered into the Iranian airspace where the air defense system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, acting under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, targeted the intruding aircraft at 04:05 hours local time on the same date at the coordinates N255943 and E570225 near the Kouh-e Mobarak region in the central district of Jask in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Such a provocative act is a blatant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular its Article 2(4). Iran condemns, in the strongest possible terms, this irresponsible and provocative wrongful act by the United States, which entails its international responsibility.
While the Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek war, it reserves its inherent right, under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, to take all appropriate necessary measures against any hostile act violating its territory, and is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air.

This is not the first provocative act by the United States against Iran’s territorial integrity. It is reminded that in all such cases, the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially protested to the U.S. through its interests section in the Embassy of Switzerland in Tehran. 

The international community is called upon to demand the United States to put an end to its continued unlawful and destabilizing measures in the already volatile region of the Persian Gulf.

It would be highly appreciated if you could have the present letter issued as a document of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

—June 20, 2019, in a letter to the United Nations

“And all of a sudden, we noticed that it was entering our airspace.”

“At that time since it was a spy drone, [we] were left with no other option. Just to shoot it down.”

“This was an act of provocation on [the] part of United States, and we asked the international community to demand from United States to stop these sort of actions, which is somehow endangering international peace and security.”

Parts of the aircraft “naturally fell down within territorial waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“So that shows, by itself, that the drone was shot down within the Iranian airspace.”

“We are not seeking war not only with the U.S., with nobody. It is not in our interests to have a conflict in our region because, to be to be very frank with you, conflict in our region will be detrimental to all regional countries — the U.S., and everybody.”

—June 20, 2019, in an interview with NPR News

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif


President Hassan Rouhani

"It means this drone has crossed the international waters and entered our territorial waters, we warned them immediately, but they did not pay any attention. It's a great thing to down this drone with our home-made technology. If we had shot down the UAV with the S-300, it would not have been an outstanding work, but we have done a great job through downing a high tech drone with our home made system."

“I do not want to say that we wanted to humiliate America, because we do not seek to humiliate anyone. But this made a great spirit for our nation. We have the necessary capabilities. We say that we have a strategic patience; our patience is a strategic one; patience differs from fear. We are not afraid of the United States. An example was that the downed drone shows when the aggressors enter into our space, they will be destroyed in a second, and this truly indicates our power.”

"Of course, our patience has red line. Our borders are our red line, and here, when the plane enters our borders, it has crossed our red line, and we have a duty to defend and we must defend.”

—June 25, 2019, in a meeting at Iran's Health Ministry according to IRNA


“Today, the US is waging an economic terrorism against the Iranian nation, and it is imposing sanctions on even medicine and food.”

“In the recent years, Iranian oil platforms and cargo ships and even airliners have been attacked by American warships, and they have intruded Iran’s air space with their drone recently, which was shot down by Iranian defence forces after repeated warnings.”

“This region is very sensitive, and the security of the strait linking the Persian Gulf to Oman Sea is very important for many countries; therefore, we expect all international institutions to give a proper response to this intrusive act by the US.”

—June 23, 2019, in a meeting with the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)


IRGC Commander General Hossein Salami

“Borders are our red lines. Any enemy that invades these borders will not return [home]. We don’t have any intention to go [to] war with any country, but we are completely ready for war.”

—June 20, 2019, in an interview with Tasnim news agency, according to The Wall Street Journal


Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi

“Regardless of any decision they (U.S. officials) make... we will not allow any of Iran’s borders to be violated. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America.” 

—June 22, 2019, in an interview with Tasnim news agency according to Reuters


Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani 

“Our air space is our red line and Iran has always responded and will continue to respond strongly to any country that violates our air space.” 

—June 20, 2019, in an interview with Tasnim news agency, according to Reuters 


IRGC Aerospace Division Head Amirali Hajizadeh 

“If the violation is repeated then our response will be repeated. It’s possible that this infringement of the Americans was carried out by a general or some operators.”

—June 22, 2019, in a statement to IRNA according to Reuters


“With the U.S. drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not.” 

—June 21, 2019 in a statement to Tasnim news agency, according to Reuters 


Commander of the Iranian Army's Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi 

“The enemy has dispatched the most advanced and complex surveillance planes to a forbidden zone. All the world saw the downing of this unmanned aerial vehicle. I say with confidence that this crushing response can always be repeated and the enemy knows this.” 

—June 24, 2019, in a statement according to Mehr News Agency


Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani  

“The downing of their drone was a good experience for them to avoid any aggression against our borders.” 

“Iran’s reaction will be stronger if they repeat their mistake of violating our borders.” 

—June 26, 2019, in a statement to Tasnim news agency according to Reuters