IRGC Claims It Was Ready to Fire Missiles at US Targets During the Drone Shootdown in June

Patrick Goodenough | September 17, 2019 | 4:31am EDT
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A F-35A Lightning II at Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE in Apri 2019. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/ Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

( – When President Trump was mulling military action against Iran after the shootdown of a U.S. surveillance drone last June, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) prepared to fire missiles at key U.S. military targets in the region, the head of the IRGC Aerospace Force has claimed.

Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as telling an Iranian talk show at the weekend that the targets were a U.S. warship near the Persian Gulf, a U.S. airbase in Qatar, and an airbase in the United Arab Emirates, which since last April has been home to the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft.

He said after Iran shot down the U.S. Navy drone with a surface-to-air missile, the Aerospace Force – which is responsible for the regime’s ballistic missiles – was on high alert.

“We would have hit those targets if the U.S. had shown a reaction,” he said.

At the time, Trump indicated he would retaliate, but then said he called off a military strike at the last moment, citing the risk of casualties.

Iran claimed the drone was shot down after entering Iranian airspace, but the Pentagon disputed that, saying the UAV “was over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters.”

Two of the three purported targets named by Hajizadeh were the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command; and the Al Dhafra air base in the UAE, where the U.S. Air Force deployed F-35A Lightning IIs earlier this year on their first overseas deployment.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was in the region at the time of the drone shootdown episode. (Photo: U.S. Navy, File)

The third target, said Hajizadeh, was a U.S. warship in the Sea of Oman, the body of water to the south-east of the Strait of Hormuz. He did not identify it, but U.S. Navy vessels in the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility at the time included the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group.

(Days later the USS Boxer amphibious assault ship arrived in the region. The Boxer was the vessel responsible for shooting down an IRGC drone on July 19, in response to what Trump described as a threat to “the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”)

In his talk show comments, Hajizadeh said that all U.S. military bases and ships within 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of Iranian territory were in range of IRGC missiles.

Hajizadeh was talking on Saturday, according to the state-owned Tasnim news agency. Earlier that same day, key oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia was targeted in a multiple drone attack that wreaked havoc on the kingdom’s oil production.

The Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen claimed responsibility, but the Trump administration has pointed a finger at Iran – an arch-foe of Saudi Arabia – and once again the president has signaled possible retaliation.



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