The US considered sending in covert missions to Iran to recover or destroy a drone that crashed in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The RQ-170 Sentinel, a high-altitude stealth drone known as the Beast of Kandahar, went down in Iran while on a surveillance mission. Iran said it shot the drone down, but the US maintained it crashed due to a malfunction.
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According to the newspaper, US officials considered sending in a commando team to recover the drone, sending in a team to blow it up or destroying the wreckage with an air strike.
Officials decided not to carry out the missions fearing it would be considered an act of war. It was hoped the drone had crashed in a remote part of Iran and therefore the remains would not be recovered.
"No one warmed up to the option of recovering it or destroying it because of the potential it could become a larger incident," the paper quoted a US official as saying.
Computer image of stealth drone (Truthdowser CC)
Officials were also concerned that the US would "be accused of an act of war" by the Iranian government.
A bigger US concern, an official said, was that the Iranians are likely to share or sell whatever they have recovered of the aircraft to the Chinese, Russians or others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the mission.
Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels – which are used both by the military and the CIA for classified surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.
Meanwhile on Thursday, an informed source at the Revolutionary Guards Corps said Iran plans to display the drone in public.
Also on Thursday, Iran's foreign ministry said a web-based US "embassy" will not be able to win over the Iranian people.
Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in comments broadcast by state television that the American "virtual initiative" will not overcome the effects of Washington's hostility to Tehran.
Tehran residents say that the embassy's website was blocked by Iranian authorities less than a day after it went online on Tuesday.
The English- and Farsi-language website was designed by Washington to facilitate communications with the Iranian public.
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