Standoff between Washington and Tehran escalates after Iranian forces shoot down US drone.
Iran said on Thursday it downed the unmanned aircraft in Iranian airspace. The US said the drone was in international territory when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The quickly moving events have provoked international alarm and prompted concern the standoff could escalate into a major open confrontation.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, June 21
Trump discusses Iran with Saudi crown prince
President Donald Trump has discussed escalating tensions between the US and Iran with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The White House says the leaders spoke on Friday.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional enemies. Trump has been stepping up a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
Airlines reroute flights after Iran downs US drone
Airlines rerouted flights on Friday to avoid airspace near the Strait of Hormuz after Iran shot down a US drone there and American aviation officials warned that commercial jetliners could be mistakenly attacked amid tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Local long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad were among those that changed flight routes in an area that is home to major hubs of global air travel. That could further imperil the bottom lines of Gulf long-haul carriers, which already have faced challenges under the Trump administration.
“The threat of a civil aircraft shootdown in southern Iran is real,” warned OPSGROUP, a company that advises airlines, citing as an example the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 aboard.
Pelosi wasn’t informed of nixed Iran strike plan
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she was not given a heads-up about the military action against Iran. Pelosi is second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence.
Congressional leaders were briefed about Iran on Thursday in the secure White House Situation Room, but Democrats afterward said they were uncertain of Trump’s next steps.
Call for diplomacy as US, Iran reach ‘tense tipping point’
US and Iran are at a “tense tipping point”, where both sides have escalated tensions to the threshold of an open conflict, an analyst said, calling for diplomacy to resolve the crisis.
“So far we’ve been under the threshold of war. Downing of an unmanned spy drone is also something that is under the threshold of war, and that’s why we have seen restraint.
“We’ve seen restraint on the Iranian side, with the Iranians saying they are unwilling to hit a manned aircraft, which was also flying in that area. And at the same time, we also see Donald Trump exercising restraint,” said Andreas Krieg, lecturer at School of Security Studies at Kings College London.
“That’s because he’s going into election in 2020 and he knows a war in the Middle East is highly unpopular with his base and across the country. And he himself has said he is not interested in another military escalation or a major combat operation.”
Krieg added: “Only now Trump realizes that his massive pressure campaign also has such massive consequences that this is no longer something you can control. The only way forward out of this should be a diplomatic approach after all that coercion we’ve seen from both sides.”
US asks for UN Security Council meeting
The US has asked the UN Security Council to meet on Iran behind closed-doors on Monday, diplomats told Reuters news agency.
“We will brief the council on the latest developments with regard to Iran and present further information from our investigation into the recent tanker incidents,” the US mission to the UN said in a note to council colleagues.
World leaders appeal for calm as US-Iran tensions escalate to ‘brink of war’
Countries across the world appealed for de-escalation, with Russia accusing the US of deliberately stoking tensions with Iran and pushing the situation “to the brink of war”. European leaders urged caution as a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Trump’s decision to pull back from a retaliatory attack.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for “nerves of steel”.
Read more here
Revolutionary Guard official: Iran chose not to hit second craft
The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said a manned US spy plane was near the drone it shot down but Iran chose not to target it.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the comment Friday at a news conference attended by The Associated Press in Tehran.
Hajizadeh said: “At the same moment, another spy aircraft called a P8 was flying close to this drone. That aircraft is manned and has around 35 crew members. Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it. We hit the unmanned aircraft.”
Trump confirms calling off attacks against Iran
Trump confirmed in a series of tweets that he called off retaliatory attacks on three Iranian targets following the downing of the US drone, saying the attacks would not have been a proportionate response.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump said.
His comments confirmed earlier reports by US media outlets which said Washington had prepared to attack Iranian installations in response to the downing of the US drone, only for Trump to order his military to stand down at the last minute.
Rouhani adviser says Trump should ease sanctions to avoid war
Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said if Trump did not want war with Tehran, he should ease US-imposed sanctions.
“War and sanctions are two sides of the same coin … If you do not want war, you should do something with the sanctions,” Ashena said in a post on Twitter.
Washington reimposed punitive sanctions on Iran last year after Trump pulled the US out of a landmark nuclear deal brokered between the Islamic Republic and several other world powers, sending its economy into freefall.
‘Diplomacy with diplomacy, war with defence’: Iran rebuffs US criticism
Iran “responds to diplomacy with diplomacy … war with firm defence,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a post on Twitter, in an apparent reaction to earlier remarks made by US special representative on Iran, Brian Hook.
Hook told reporters at a news conference in Saudi Arabia‘s capital, Riyadh, that US diplomacy did not give Iran the right to respond with military force.
He also accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it must meet US diplomacy with diplomacy.
Global airlines rerout flights after Iran downs US drone
The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based carrier Emirates Airlines was rerouting flights away from areas of possible conflict in the Gulf amid the heightened US-Iran tensions, a spokeswoman for the company said.
“The re-routings have minimally affected the arrival/departure timings of some flights,” the spokeswoman said, without naming specific countries or provinces that are being avoided.
“We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and … will make further operational changes if the need arises,” she added.
The move came after several other airlines – including Dutch carrier KLM, Australian airline Qantas, German airline Lufthansa and UK carrier British Airways – also said they would fly alternative routes to skirt the Gulf region following an earlier warning to pilots issued by the US’s Federal Aviation Administration.
Iran has no right to answer diplomacy ‘with military force’: US
Brian Hook, US special representative on Iran, accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it had no right to respond to diplomacy “with military force”.
“Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy,” Hook told reporters in Saudi Arabia, where he met with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy defence minister.
“Iran is responsible for escalating tensions in the region. They continue to reject diplomatic overtures to de-escalate tensions,” he added.
Earlier on Friday, bin Salman said in a tweet he had discussed the latest “Iranian attacks” with Hook during the pair’s meeting, adding he had “affirmed the kingdom’s support” for Washington’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.
Iran says it issued warnings before shooting US drone
Iranian state television broadcast images of what it said was debris from the downed US drone recovered inside its territorial waters.
The broadcast showed a short clip of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general answering journalists’ questions in front of some of the debris that he said had been recouped from Iranian waters.
Iran gave two warnings before downing the US drone over the Gulf of Oman, said Brigadier-General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC’s aerospace arm.
“Unfortunately, when they failed to reply … and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory … we were obliged to shoot it down,” Hajizadeh said.
Trump calls for talks with Iran via Oman: Reuters
Iranian officials told the Reuters news agency that Tehran received a message from Trump through Oman overnight on Thursday that warned a US attack was imminent.
“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues … He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision… However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”
Iranian officials later refuted the Reuters story.
Iran summons Swiss envoy
Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who also represents US interests in the Islamic Republic, to protest against what it claims was a “very dangerous provocation” by Washington over the drone incident.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Iranian officials told Swiss envoy Markus Leitner that Washington would be responsible for the consequences of any military action taken against it.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies