Intel: US drone shootdown sparks more Gulf tension

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US President Donald Trump said today that the United States destroyed an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of an American vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. Defense officials told CNN the drone was brought down today by electronic jamming.

Why it matters: The incident marks another critical moment in the standoff between the United States and Iran in the Gulf over the past two months, including Iran’s shootdown of an American Global Hawk surveillance drone that nearly prompted a military response from the Trump administration.

Details: Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the USS Boxer was sailing in international waters “conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz” when it was approached by a fixed wing drone “within a threatening range.” The American amphibious assault ship “took defensive action,” he said. Hoffman said the Pentagon assessed the drone to be Iranian.

More sanctions: Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department announced fresh sanctions today against Iran-backed factions of the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq and against Belgian and Chinese companies involved in Tehran’s uranium enrichment networks. “There should be no enrichment for Iran,” Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, tweeted. “Maximum pressure continues until Iran abandons its nuclear ambitions & malign activities.”

What’s next: The State Department plans to speak to Washington diplomats Friday about establishing a maritime initiative to root out Iranian military activity in the Gulf. The Defense Department’s top international policy official, Kathryn Wheelbarger, told Reuters on Thursday that the plan was not military in nature but sought to “increase maritime domain awareness and surveillance capabilities” in the region.

Know more: Read Jack Detsch’s latest on the Pentagon’s move to put in place 500 new US troops in Saudi Arabia to respond to provocations in the Gulf.

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Jack Detsch is Al-Monitor’s Pentagon correspondent. Based in Washington, Detsch examines US-Middle East relations through the lens of the Defense Department. Detsch previously covered cybersecurity for Passcode, the Christian Science Monitor’s project on security and privacy in the Digital Age. Detsch also served as editorial assistant at The Diplomat Magazine and worked for NPR-affiliated stations in San Francisco. On Twitter: @JackDetsch_ALM, Email: jdetsch@al-monitor.com.

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