President TrumpDonald John TrumpHealth care moves to center stage in Dem primary fight Meghan McCain shares video of father shutting down supporter who called Obama an ‘Arab’ after Trump rally Graham: Every Republican president or nominee ‘will be accused of being a racist’ MORE on Thursday said a U.S. Navy vessel shot down an Iranian drone in a “defensive action” in the Strait of Hormuz.
Trump said the USS Boxer shot down the drone after it got within 1,000 yards, “ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”
“The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump said. “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.”
The Pentagon added the Iranian drone was within a “threatening range” of the Boxer.
“At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
The incident marked the latest escalation of tensions between the two sides, after Iran last month shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that it claimed was flying over Iranian airspace, a move that nearly prompted a retaliatory strike from the U.S.
U.S. officials have insisted the U.S. drone stayed in international airspace and called Iran’s action an “unprovoked attack.”
Trump said at the time he came within minutes of launching a military strike against Iran, but decided the estimated 150-person death toll was not a proportional response.
U.S.-Iran tensions have been at a fever pitch since May, when the Trump administration announced the deployment of a carrier strike group to the region because of unspecified threats from Iran.
Since then, tensions have continued to spike after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region that the United States blamed on Tehran.
Iran has also breached two key limits of the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump withdrew the United States from that Obama-era deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran.
Iran has been pushing Europe to deliver benefits from the deal in spite of U.S. sanctions, and its breaches of the agreement are seen as an effort to up pressure on Europe.
Even as Trump has threatened military action on Iran, he has expressed a willingness to talk. He also held that he is not looking for regime change, adding his main concern is Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump’s nominee to be Defense secretary, Mark Esper, also said this week that “we need to get back on the diplomatic channel” with Iran.
Esper touted a plan, dubbed Operation Sentinel, for U.S. allies to escort vessels transiting through the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.
The Strait of Hormuz, in particular, is a strategic chokepoint through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes and which Iran has frequently threatened to close off.
On Thursday, Trump called on other nations to “condemn Iran’s attempt to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
“I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Straight of Hormuz and to work with us in the future,” Trump added.
Updated: 4:08 p.m.