Iranian Commander Vows to Engage U.S. Drones

By Patrick Burke | November 13, 2012 | 2:54 PM EST

U.S. military drone. (AP)

( -- The Iranian commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said that, in the future, Iranian fighter jets will engage U.S. drones that violate Iranian airspace.

“An enemy drone had entered the FIR (Flight Information Region) in the Persian Gulf, which is a no-fly zone, deliberately or by mistake, and the Islamic Republic air defense systems and the IRGC fighter jets which were tasked with encountering the enemy aircraft acted upon their duty,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafar said on Sunday, as reported by the state-run Fars News Agency.

“And if the incident happens ever again, a similar move will be made by Iran,” he said.

During a press briefing at the Pentagon on Nov. 8, Defense Department spokesman George Little said that a U.S. drone was pursued (back on Nov. 1) by Iranian jets in international airspace, and the U.S. drone never crossed into Iranian airspace.

“I can confirm that on November 1st, at approximately 4:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, an unarmed, unmanned MQ-1 U.S. military aircraft, conducting routine surveillance over the Arabian Gulf, was intercepted by Iranian Su-25 Frogfoot Aircraft and was fired upon with guns,” Little told reporters.

“The incident occurred over international waters approximately 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coastline.  The MQ-1 was not hit and returned to its base safely.  We have briefed relevant members of Congress on the incident,” he said.

Little also declined to label the firing of an Iranian fighter jet on a U.S. drone as an act of war.

“I'm not going to get into legal labels.  The reality is that we have a wide range of options, as I said before, to protect our assets and our forces in the region and we'll do so when necessary,” he said. “We have communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters, over the Arabian Gulf, consistent with longstanding practice.”