by our Middle East Affairs correspondent
IRAN HAS dismissed with contempt American appeals for the return of their unmanned spycraft brought down over Iran on 4th December. The US RQ-170 Sentinel drone launched from a US air-base in Afghanistan was forced to land, by an Iranian cyber-attack, some 250 km inside Iranian territory. The Iranian cyber-warfare unit took control of the drone, overriding its drone’s self-destruct mechanism, and brought it to a soft-landing to enable their own experts to probe its secrets.
The CIA spy-plane is currently being studied by Iranian military engineers who are working to unlock the aircraft’s software and reverse-engineer the drone.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad said: “The Americans have perhaps decided to give us this spy plane. We now have control of this plane.” The Iranian leader added that Iranian technicians have been able to make sense of the craft’s complex technical system, perhaps providing a crucial addition to Iran’s arsenal as tensions between Tehran and Washington intensify over Iran’s astonishing success in civilian nuclear technology.
The Americans initially refused to comment on Iranian claims but when the captured Sentinel was shown on Iranian TV Washington finally admitted it was one of theirs and demanded it back.
US President Barack Obama, who gave the first official US confirmation that the drone was in Iran’s hands on Monday shed no light on the plane’s mission or how it was downed. During a White House news conference on Monday Obama simply said: “We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond.”
He soon found out. The Islamic Republic’s semi-official Fars News Agency kicked off by mocking the US leader for begging for the return of “his toy plane”.
“Obama is hoping that the Iranian government is in a Christmas mood because he has asked Tehran to send back his Christmas present.
“Instead of asking to the return the drone, Obama should formally apologise to Iran for violating the airspace of the country”, Iranian Foreign Minister official Rahmin Mehmanparast told the media this week. It seems, he said, that Obama “forgot” that the drone violated the Iranian airspace to spy the country, and said that such action “is the same as violating the international laws and regulations, and interfering in the domestic affairs of the country”.
The Lockheed-Martin RQ-170 Sentinel is one US intelligence’s most expensive assets. The super-secret delta-winged stealth drone has been in operation for at least five years. Now its secrets are no more…