US officials: A US Navy drone briefly seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf

US officials: A US Navy drone briefly seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf
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The Revolutionary Guard of Iran has reportedly seized an American Navy drone and tried to tow it away, releasing it when an American warship and helicopter approached.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran seized an American navy drone in the Persian Gulf and IRGC's Shadid Baziar warship began towing the Saildrone Explorer, but they peacefully released it four hours later when USS Thunderbolt and an MH-60 of the American Navy approached the Iranian ship, calling the Iranians to let go of the drone, US officials said on Wednesday.

US Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla said that the incident demonstrates how Iran continues with "destabilizing, illegal, and unprofessional activity" in the Middle East.

In another report, Iran-based PressTV cited Nour News saying that the naval forces of the IRGC took “timely action” to seize a US vessel, whose “navigational system had failed,” and began towing it with the aim of supporting safe and secure shipping in the Persian Gulf.

It claimed that the ship was released on the order of the Iranian support vessel’s commander and only after a US fleet arrived at the scene and was reminded that it must observe shipping security and risk-free navigation.

An Iranian military source reacted to General Kurilla’s comments by saying that the illegitimate presence of the US Army in the Persian Gulf had always caused insecurity and that the trend of using unmanned vessels is creating new problems in the region.

The incident marks the first case that Iran has targeted the US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet’s new task force incorporating aerial, naval, and underwater drones. The 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, and its areas of operation include the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Currently, tensions between the US and Iran remain high since the nuclear deal between Tehran and the West hangs in the balance. The negotiations roadmap could potentially lead to sanctions lifted against Iran in exchange for Tehran restricting its rapidly advancing nuclear program.