December 13, 2011
On Monday Obama asked Iran to return the CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel it brought down and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta described efforts to seek the return of the drone from Iran as “an appropriate request.”
“We have asked for it back — we’ll see how the Iranians respond,” said Obama during a news conference with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Rather than asking for a return of the high-tech spy craft, Iran has suggested Obama should apologize for violating its sovereignty. “It seems that (Obama) has forgotten that our air space was violated, a spying operation conducted and international law trampled,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.
“The U.S. spy drone is the property of Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran will decide what it wants to do in this regard,” added Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi.
Iran has exploited the incident for propaganda purposes. Its parliament issued a resolution calling the drone incursion “evidence of international terrorism and a blatant violation of international law by the aggressor America.” Following a complaint to the United Nation’s Security Council, Iran said it might seek reparations from the United States.
Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, Iran’s state prosecutor, told reporters that Iran has filed charges against retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane and former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht.
In October, Gerecht called for assassinating Iranian leaders. “I don’t think that you are going to really intimidate these people, get their attention, unless you shoot somebody,” he said. Keane and Gerecht suggested senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders including Qasem Soleimani be taken out.
Gerecht is a former CIA case officer and a former director of the Project for the New American Century’s Middle East Initiative and a former resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Iran made the accusations as its judiciary issued indictments against 15 unidentified people held on suspicion of spying for the United States and Israel. Espionage in Iran is punishable by death.
NATO initially said the craft was an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance drone that went missing during a mission over western Afghanistan. It was soon discovered the CIA plane was on a spying mission over Iran.
After Iran showed off the captured drone on national television, the establishment media in the West said it was a model and the Iranians did not have the technical expertise to bring to plane down unscathed. Later news reports claimed the plane was brought down by a computer or aviation malfunction. Iran claims it commandeered the plane with an “electronic ambush.”
On Monday, Iran announced that its experts are in the final stages of recovering data from the surveillance drone. U.S. officials are concerned others may be able to reverse engineer the chemical composition of the drone’s radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft’s sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify “terror suspects” from tens of thousands of feet in the air, Fox News reports.
The CIA’s drone, dubbed the “Beast of Kandahar” by the Iranians, will has already proved to be an intelligence bonanza for Iran.
“But it’s not Iran alone that will benefit. Russia and China, who have supplied Iran with military equipment in the past, also have hit the jackpot and will likely get a look at one of the most sophisticated unmanned aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. Russian and Chinese officials have already asked to inspect the drone, according to the Nasim Online news site,” writes Babak Dehghanpisheh for The Daily Beast. “That’s not all. Even Iran’s militant allies Hezbollah and Hamas may benefit from technology that is exploited from the drone. And that’s the kind of scenario that’s been worrying U.S. military commanders for a long time.”