(CNSNews.com) – A U.S. Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz destroyed an Iranian drone “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew,” President Trump said Thursday.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took “defensive action” after the drone closed to about 1,000 yards and ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”
“The drone was immediately destroyed.”
Trump said the incident was “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.”
“The United States defends the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” he said. “I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait and to work with us in the future.”
Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a brief statement the incident occurred while the USS Boxer was “in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz.”
“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,” he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters at the United Nations in New York in response to shouted questions that he had “no information about having lost a drone today.”
Zarif also posted on Twitter a world map with the outlines of the United States and Iran highlighted, as well as the location of Hormuz. Above the map was a single word, “Reminder.”
The foreign minister was presumably making a point about the relative proximities of Iran and the U.S. to the Persian Gulf, something he raises frequently when questioning the presence of the U.S. in Iran’s backyard.
Since early May tensions have been rising in the Gulf and surrounding waters, with a number of incidents blamed by the U.S. and allies on Iran. They include:
--The sabotage of four tankers in waters south of the Strait of Hormuz on May 12.
--Attacks on two more tankers near the Persian Gulf on June 13, and an attempt the same day to shoot down a U.S. surveillance drone filming the tanker incident.
--The shooting down with a surface-to-air missile of an unmanned U.S. Navy drone on June 20. Iran claimed it entered Iranian airspace; the Pentagon denied that. Trump then ordered a retaliatory military strike but called it off at the last moment, citing the risk of casualties.
--An apparent attempt by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel in small fast boats to stop a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 10 – an attempt foiled by a Royal Navy warship. (Iranian officials continue to threaten to retaliate after authorities in Gibraltar, a British territory, detained an Iranian tanker on July 4, claiming it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against the Assad regime.)
--Iran confirmed on Thursday that the IRGC had seized a foreign oil tanker and its crew several days earlier – found to be a UAE-based ship which had gone missing in Iranian waters last weekend.
Adding to tensions have been other incidents in the wider region, including a drone attack by Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen on Saudi oil pipelines on May 14; a rocket that landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on May 19; the shooting down over Yemen of a U.S. surveillance drone on June 6; a missile attack on a Saudi airport on June 12; and a series of drone attacks on Saudi airports in June and July, most recently on Wednesday this week.
‘A multinational effort is needed’
As alluded to by Trump on Thursday, the U.S. is working on drawing together a coalition of countries to patrol both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb – at the entrance to the Red Sea, between Yemen and Djibouti – and to escort ships through the two narrow channels, which are crucial to world energy and commercial shipping.
In an interview on the Hugh Hewitt show on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump has “made pretty clear that this is an international obligation to keep these waterways open, and we’re working diligently to build out a maritime security initiative – a broad range of countries participating in that.”
“The Iranians’ effort to deny transit for commercial vessels, crude oil vessels, and other vessels is something that – frankly, it’s consistent with 40 years of their history and it’s something that the United States is prepared to do our part to make sure that those waterways remain open,” he said.
On Friday, the State and Defense Departments are jointly hosting a discussion with foreign diplomats focusing on “safeguarding freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Middle East,” the State Department said in a statement.
“In recent weeks, we have seen increased threats in and around the Strait of Hormuz. One fifth of the world’s oil supply transits through this area and navigating freely through the strait is critical for the stability of the international economy,” it said.
“A multinational effort is needed to address this global challenge and ensure the safe passage of vessels. We will be discussing with nations how we can collectively contribute to promote greater peace and security.”
The USS Boxer, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, carries a contingent of U.S. Marines and a mixture of helicopters and fighter planes. Previous missions have included participation in the Iraq War, and in 2016 its short takeoff, vertical landing Harrier attack jets carried out airstrikes against ISIS terrorist targets in Iraq.