Iran: Drone? What drone?

Did the USS Boxer shoot down an Iranian drone yesterday near the Strait of Hormuz? The US Navy says yes — but Iran says it hasn’t lost any of its drones. Instead, its deputy foreign minister suggested that the US Navy check its own stock:

Awww, he’s “worried” about our drone inventory. Isn’t that nice? The Iranians didn’t seem terribly worried about our drone health a month ago when they shot down one of ours flying in international waters. Who says our relationship isn’t improving?

On the other hand, they’re bragging about the drone that approached the USS Boxer, so it’s not as if the US Navy made up the incident. The IRGC plans to publish photos of the USS Boxer taken by the drone, and Iran promises the timing will prove them correct:

“All of (Iran’s) drones… have safely returned to their bases,” said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

“There have been no reports of a confrontation with the American USS Boxer” naval vessel, he added, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

The Revolutionary Guards said they will “soon” publish photos taken by one of their drones of the USS Boxer.

Images were transmitted to base “before and even after the time Americans claim” the drone was destroyed, according to a statement on the force’s Sepahnews website.

So who’s lying here? Shekarchi is talking out of both sides of his mouth just in this statement. On one hand, he denies any “confrontation” with the US ship, and in the same breath brags about how close the drone got. That certainly sounds like a “confrontation” between hostile forces, even if one of the vessels was remotely operated.

Also, the Pentagon confirmed the president’s announcement shortly after it was made, telling reporters that the USS Boxer used electronic countermeasures rather than conventional weapons to destroy the drone. By the time that would have happened, the drone would have been close enough to take any number of photographs and transmit them back to their command center, so photos aren’t exactly proof either way. There wouldn’t be much reason to lie anyway; Trump’s not interested in another Middle East war, which is why he called off the retaliatory strike after Iran shot down our drone a month ago. Also, as Allahpundit noted last night, Trump didn’t announce this with MAGA-like bravado — he was clearly concerned about the incident.

Besides, it’s not as if the Iranians have a great track record of truth-telling. They finally got around to admitting yesterday that the ship they claimed to have “rescued” over the weekend is the same one they seized for alleged smuggling:

On Thursday, however, Iran acknowledged that it had seized a United Arab Emirates-based ship that was reported missing last weekend. The Panamanian-registered Riah was detained because it was suspected to be involved in smuggling, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Thursday.

The UAE still hasn’t acknowledged that the ship belongs to them. However, Israeli-based analysts think Iran may be telling the truth about the Riah and smuggling, at least:

Analysts at the Israeli-based maritime risk analytics company Windward said that the Riah has been at sea for the past two years and has a pattern of turning off its location transmitters for days at a time, particularly when entering Iranian waters.

The firm said data suggests that for more than two years that the 58-meter (190-foot) Riah had been clandestinely receiving fuel from an unknown source off the UAE coast and delivering it to other tankers, which then take it to Yemen and Somalia.

No distress calls were made from the Riah, and no ship owner reported a missing vessel.

The ship’s registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told The Associated Press it had sold the vessel to another company, Mouj Al-Bahar. A man who answered a telephone number registered to the company told the AP it didn’t own any ships. Officials in the UAE said the ship was neither UAE-owned nor operated and carried no Emirati personnel.

This might be why the US, UK, and others in the region aren’t making a bigger stink about the seizure of the Riah. If no one is claiming ownership of over one million liters of crude oil floating around the Strait of Hormuz, it’s probably because no one legitimately owned it in the first place.