Iran recently has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 deal.
In recent weeks, the US has sped an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. Mysterious attacks also have targeted oil tankers as Iranian-allied Houthi rebels launched bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.
All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the US and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran’s Islamic Revolution.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone on Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 1200 kilometres southeast of Tehran and is close to the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, citing the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, declined to comment when asked if an American drone was shot down.
However, he told the Associated Press: “There was no drone over Iranian territory.”
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Trump had been briefed on the details of a missile strike in Saudi Arabia.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies,” Sanders said on Thursday.
Earlier, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said they had struck a power station in Al-Shuqaiq city, in the Saudi province of Jizan, with a cruise missile, according to the group’s Al Masirah TV.
There was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities.
The Houthis, who ousted the Saudi-backed internationally recognised government from power in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in late 2014, have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities in the past two weeks.
AP and AAP