Tension is rising between the United States and Iran. Here’s a briefing, compiled from Globe wire services, on what you need to know:
Iran shot down a jetliner-sized US surveillance drone near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said Thursday that the RQ-4 Global Hawk was inside Iranian airspace over the southern province of Hormozgan, next to the strategic strait. The US Central Command confirmed the incident but denied that the aircraft was intruding on Iranian airspace. It was the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on the United States amid the current crisis.
President Trump said Thursday the attack on the drone might have been a mistake, but he also said “you’ll soon find out” whether the United States will strike back.
Tensions were already on the rise
The latest news came after weeks of rising tension. When a Japanese and a Norwegian tanker were attacked last week near the Strait of Hormuz, the Trump administration blamed Iran. Iran denied involvement. In May, the United States tightened sanctions on Iranian oil sales. It has also recently deployed 1,000 additional troops to the region and sent an aircraft carrier there ahead of schedule. Iran, for its part, has threatened to resume stockpiling low-enriched uranium.
It goes back to pulling out of the nuclear deal
President Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran a year ago. The agreement was meant to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Washington quit the accord, put pressure on other countries remaining in the accord to quit, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Trump said he wanted to negotiate a new deal that would force Iran to rein in Iranian-allied militias in the region and Iran’s weapons program.
Trump’s signals are mixed on war
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are hardliners on Iran, and some have raised concerns they will push Trump into conflict. But Trump campaigned on not getting the United States involved in foreign wars. And his remarks that the Thursday attack on the drone might have been a mistake seemed intended to ease tensions. He said as recently as Monday he considered attacks attributed to Iran at that point as “very minor.” Pompeo also said as recently as Tuesday, “President Trump does not want war.”
Still, observers fear a miscalculation or further escalation could lead to armed conflict.
It’s a risky, high-stakes standoff
Iran is under severe sanctions that are strangling its economy and cutting off its vital oil revenues. Experts told the New York Times that Iran may be causing trouble in the region in an effort to get the nations who remain in the Iran nuclear deal to convince the United States to let up the pressure. “Creating a sense of urgency among the Europeans, as well as Chinese and Russians” is meant to compel those governments to rein in the United States on Iran’s behalf, said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The Iranians may also be hoping that the prospect of disruptions to oil tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf could persuade the Emiratis and Saudis to press the United States “to cool down its strategy,” she said.
“Iran lashing out is a way for it to show the rest of the world, ‘Look, we’ve been acting in a relatively restrained manner in the year since Trump pulled out of the deal. But now we can’t,’ ” said Dina Esfandiary, a Harvard University expert on Middle Eastern security issues.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.