By William Tucker
Pentagon spokesman George Little recently stated that Iranian aircraft recently fired on a U.S. predator drone operating in international waters near the Kuwaiti-Iranian border. The unmanned aircraft came under fire as it was conducting a routine surveillance mission in the crowded area of the northern Persian Gulf by two Su-25 Frogfoot fighter aircraft operated by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Air Force. According to the Defense Department, and confirmed by the Iranians, the fighter aircraft fired on the Predator using its cannons as opposed to an air-to-air missile. Although there has claims that the Iranian missed their target, it is much more likely that they never intended to hit the drone. Downing the Predator over international waters would have represented a significant escalation in the standoff between the U.S. and Iran. Additionally, Tehran was likely concerned that the U.S. would respond more aggressively in the future to such provocations.
Iran uses such provocations in the Gulf as a show of force and a demonstration of of its opposition to the U.S. presence in the region. Rather than assuming Iran is an irrational actor in its bid for regional influence and pursuit of a nuclear capability, Tehran’s provocative behavior towards the U.S. and other regional powers only goes so far as to not escalate matters. It’s important to keep in mind that Iran’s provocations have actually decreased in intensity since the birth of the regime as the U.S. influence in the region has grown. Indeed, the U.S. has had its setbacks in recent years it influence is still felt – more so now that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have become more active. Of course, this is occurring with U.S. backing and support. Iran knows full well that its position is being opposed by many, but the nation has little choice but to pursue its interests even if they seem irrational. For some nation-states, such things are an enduring curse.