The United States had asked for the return of the RQ-170 drone that was downed by Iran over a week ago. Speaking at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Barack Obama said, “We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were more outspoken on the issue. Panetta acknowledged that it is difficult to know what the Iranians might be able to learn by an examination of the downed spy drone. He concedes that it is unlikely that the aircraft will be returned, but says it was important to make the request. Secretary Clinton said recent Iranian behavior indicated, “that the path that Iran seems to be going down is a dangerous one for themselves and the region. Given Iran’s behavior to date we do not expect them to comply but we are dealing with all of these provocations and concerning actions taken by Iran in close concert with our closest allies and partners.”
Standing with Secretary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued the statement, “We’re not giving up on [diplomatic] engagement with Iran, but on a number of occasions Iran has behaved in a way in recent weeks and months which has intensified confrontation with the rest of the world. We have seen an increasing predilection for dangerous and illegal adventures on the part of at least parts of the Iranian regime.” The reference to illegal adventures refers to the Iranian attack on the British compound in Tehran, the Iranian attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Iranians continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and Iranian support for hostile militant terrorist organizations.
Speaking Monday on Venezuelan state television, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “The Americans have perhaps decided to give us this spy plane. We now have control of this plane.”
The FARS News agency in Tehran, in an article dated December 13, took a belligerent stand: “U.S. President Obama is hoping that the Iranian government is in a Christmas mood because he has asked Tehran to send him his Christmas present back.”
According to a senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the drone will not be returned. The commander said, “This is not only an intelligence victory for us, but a defeat for our enemies.”
Iran agrees with American sources which indicate the drone was downed through a sophisticated cyber-attack. According to FARS, the CIA and the Pentagon are considering a number of options to retrieve the plane, including a commando raid and/or an air strike. Such actions, they mention, would constitute an act of war.
The RQ-170 has special coatings and a batwing shape designed to help it penetrate other nations’ air defenses undetected. It utilizes satellite positioning for navigation. The existence of the aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin, has been known since 2009, when a model was photographed at the main US airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The Iranian state broadcaster Thursday evening released the first images of the highly advanced US stealth spy drone. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces made a special televised appearance to the Iranian people to explain the capture.
Again, according to Tehran press releases, the United States is concerned that an examination of the craft might find weaknesses that China or other nations could use to an advantage in avoiding detection of future surveillance flights.
The drone was programmed to destroy data in the event of a malfunction, but the destruction failed.