Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 09, 2012

Pentagon Admits Violation Of Iranian Airspace - Or Not

From the Washington Post report on the U.S. drone that Iranian jets chased away with some warning shots:
The MQ-1 Predator drone returned to its base unscathed, even as the Iranian aircraft chased it away from the Islamic Republic’s borders, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Thursday, disclosing details of an incident that the Obama administration chose to keep quiet during the final stretch of the presidential campaign.
An Iranian Su-25 fighter jet pursued the U.S. drone as it retreated from Iranian airspace, the spokesman said.
I find it somewhat relieving that the Pentagon actually admits that its drone violated Iranian airspace. It is somewhat disturbing though that other reports do not mention this. They indeed say the opposite:
“Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace,” Mr. Little said. “It was always flying in international airspace.”
In the DoD news briefing Little repeated that line at least four times.

So I wonder where the WaPo writer, Ernesto Londoño, picked up the "retreated from Iranian airspace" detail.

It may well be that Londoño is correct. The international borders in the area east of Kuwait are not well defined, neither on land nor at sea. The three countries have never agreed on any of them. Cyrus Safardi reminds us of an incident in 2007 when Iranians plucked a British patrol from the sea:

At the time the UK govt claimed repeatedly that the Marines had been captured inside Iraqi waters. The London Times reported, a year after the event, that the Brits had simply decided to draw their own boundary lines, without telling anyone else.
The Pentagon may be doing the same here. If the ownership of various islands and the borders between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, especially at sea, are disputed how then can the Pentagon claim that the drone was exactly 16 miles away from Iranian territory and 4 miles away from Iran's sovereign 12 mile zone?

Iran has confirmed the incident but did not say anything about where it happened.

Posted by b on November 9, 2012 at 12:35 UTC | Permalink


Nice catch b, even Pentagon spokesman is confused if they violated Iranian airspace or not ;-)

Posted by: Harry | Nov 9 2012 13:51 utc | 1

reuters reported the retreat too.

According to the Pentagon, two Soviet-designed SU-25 aircraft intercepted the Predator drone over Gulf waters about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast. After firing at the drone they followed it for several miles as it moved farther away from Iranian airspace.

how many nautical miles away still constitute iranian airspace?

Posted by: annie | Nov 9 2012 13:59 utc | 2

12 nautical miles. Here is Wiki on the issue

Posted by: JaimeInTexas | Nov 9 2012 14:05 utc | 3

thanks james. yes i was just now listening to wapo's video and mr pentagon said it was 12 too.

Posted by: annie | Nov 9 2012 14:10 utc | 4

This thing is obviously payback for Hezbollah flying the drone over Israel.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 9 2012 14:18 utc | 5

The 12-mile thing is good for textbooks but in reality the issue is far more complicated. Like Amb. Craig Murray has written: "The difficulty is that the maritime delimitation in the North West of the Persian Gulf, between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, has never been resolved. It is not therefore a question of just checking your GPS to see where you are. This is a perfectly legitimate dispute, in which nobody is particularly at fault. Lateral maritime boundaries from a coastal border point are intensely complicated things, especially where islands and coastal banks become a factor."

Posted by: Cyrus | Nov 9 2012 14:31 utc | 6

Irregardless of exact nautical miles, how would the US respond to an Iranian drone or warplane flying around offshore of Los Angeles or Wash DC, whether at 12nm or 16nm? That's where it gets interesting.

Posted by: Forgetful | Nov 9 2012 15:25 utc | 7

Latest from Penny:

Now the "election" is over, events will excellerate with regards to Syria/Iran. Just can't see the empire/NATO blunting their drive towards hegemony.

Posted by: ben | Nov 9 2012 16:28 utc | 8

Why weren't Iranian planes able to shoot down an unmanned drone?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 9 2012 16:53 utc | 9

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 9, 2012 11:53:14 AM | 9

they obviously did not want to but show that they could ...

Posted by: somebody | Nov 9 2012 16:58 utc | 10

Seems like they would every interest in doing so. They would then have the "propaganda initiative", they could boast about it and make the Pentagon look like aggressors or simply ingore it...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 9 2012 17:00 utc | 11

Iran Confirms Engagement with US Drone

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi on Friday confirmed reports about Iran's confrontation with an enemy aircraft in the airspace over the Persian Gulf, saying that the aircraft was shooed away by Iranian fighter jets.
"Last week an unidentified aircraft entered the airspace over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, which was forced to flee due to the prompt, smart and decisive action of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Armed forces," Vahidi said in a statement released by the Iranian Defense Ministry on Friday.

He stressed that the incident and similar events in the past all indicate that "the Islamic Republic of Iran is vigilantly and precisely monitoring all moves and provides decisive, necessary and prompt response with efficient power" to any hostile move.

The Iranian defense minister further stated that Iran is pursuing the case at relevant international bodies using all available capacities.

Posted by: b | Nov 9 2012 17:19 utc | 12

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know whether the reporters are aware that a nautical mile is longer than a regular mile?

Posted by: Cyrus | Nov 9 2012 17:20 utc | 13

@ 9, The possible reason Iran didn't shoot down the drown (I'm only guessing of course) is that it was intercepted right after penetrating Iranian airspace and quickly exited when fired upon. It would do Iran no good if it pursued and shot down the drone and it's wreckage was found in "international" waters.

Posted by: Lysander | Nov 9 2012 17:29 utc | 14

The US State Department has issues with Iran's maritime claims:
The United States has not ratified UNCLOS.

BTW, it is interesting that the United States only claims that the drone was fired on over international waters - they don't claim that it never entered Iranian airspace, so that means that at some point it had entered Iranian airspace.

Posted by: blowback | Nov 9 2012 17:29 utc | 15

I guess Iran is having fun :-))


Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution explains Iran’s role in exploiting legitimate grievances among Saudi Shias to promote terrorism and instability in Saudi Arabia....

On Aug. 15, they struck at Saudi Arabia’s Achilles heel. A cyber attack was delivered against the Saudi oil company ARAMCO with devastating results. According to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, 30,000 ARAMCO computer work stations were rendered useless and had to be replaced. The Saudi oil company, which Forbes magazine ranks as the world’s largest, and the key to the Saudi oil industry, had the data on many of its hard drives erased and replaced with photos of a burning American flag.

Panetta did not directly accuse Iran of responsibility, but other US officials have pointed right at Tehran. The so-called Shamoon virus underscored the fact that Iran has “undertaken a concerted effort to use cyberspace to its advantage,” according to Panetta.

But the Saudi attack was also an inside job. According to the New York Times, a company insider or insiders probably inserted a memory stick with the virus. ARAMCO has almost 60,000 employees. About 70% of them are Shia Muslims from the kingdom’s Eastern Province. They have long dominated the company and provided its most critical engineers. ARAMCO, in short, is a target-rich environment for angry Saudi Shias with ties to Iran. Only a tiny minority needs to seek Iranian technical help to penetrate the cyber heart of the kingdom’s oil industry...

A few days later, a similar virus attacked the RasGas natural-gas company in Qatar, a joint venture between Exxon Mobil and Qatar’s state-owned Qatar Petroleum, which operates the world’s largest natural-gas field. The two attacks, according to Panetta, were “probably the most destructive attack the private sector has seen to date.” But neither attack, apparently, directly targeted the most sensitive ARAMCO and RasGas computer systems that operate the oil industry itself. The attacks were aimed more at management systems...

Posted by: somebody | Nov 9 2012 18:00 utc | 16

I tend to think that this issue has more to it.

Quite sure this was not simply a rude american provocation. That is, an official one.

After all, the us learned quite painfully that any of their toys they send into Iran is simply taken over, taken down, disassembled and studied for the best of Iranian tech development.

It would also be senseless, considering that the us have satellites and, more importantly, that the obama administration payed a high price (politically) to *not* further escalate the situation with Iran. Ecucated guesses talk about ca. 5% that the democrates lost due to netanjahu/aipac behind (and not so behind) the scenes tactics. Actually that's the difference between a solid victory and barely won 8as it happened to be).

One must also ask "Why did the Iranians react so mildly and why did they stay quiet?".

The Iranians are neither stupid nor cowards nor helpless. They could have hunted and shot down the drone not caring at all about national or international waters. After all they are the bad guys anyway not matter what they do.
But they didn't and they even didn't make a lot of noise.

The last factor to be considered is a twofold one on the us side.
a) there were already cases of mutiny in the us military; just remember adm. cosgrove who - against policy and orders - wanted to provoke a war with Iran.(for fairness sake: there are also upright generals and admirals who don't like it all to see their troups letting more blood for israely interests)
b) just look at the reaction of quite many republicans. They stutter irresponsible, aggressive bullsh*t, some of them (and not so few!) are even talking about separation and revolution against washington.

Et voila, there you have it.

Obama wants to enhance the situation with Iran (or at least not escalate it any further). And the Iranians know that and don't want to make that step harder, e.g. by blowing up the drone issue. So they did the minimum and softest necessary to not tolerate an intrusion but otherwise stayed calm.

On the other side some republican neocon general/admiral friend of israel arranged a provocation that, if failing, could be explained away, e.g. by talking about vage and not well defined borders.
As for the DoD, one shouldn't care too much about their statements. What should they do? Openly confess an illegal action and, even worse, a very serious inside problem beneath? Hardly.

There is, by the way, another point to be taken home:

As a side effect the Iranians, implicitely but no less clearly, showed their "personality", how to deal with them and what to expect in return:
"Try to f*ck us, put pressure and sanctions on us - and we only get stronger and more determined.
If, however, you approach us in a reasonable manner you can even occasionally have a run wild admiral breach our air-space and we will deal swiftly but softly with it and even not make a lot of noise."

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Nov 9 2012 18:52 utc | 17

I also just read that they sent Su-25's, which carry no missiles and are primarily ground-attack aircraft. In other words, all a publicity stunt.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 9 2012 19:20 utc | 18

Not to worry. Those drone operators are all highly trained and responsible. Wouldn't want somebody with a shaky hand starting WWIII.

Posted by: dh | Nov 9 2012 19:30 utc | 19

Betrayus resigned as the CIA chief...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 19:54 utc | 20

dh @19

Those drone operators are all highly trained and responsible.

Will they now require counselling for PSTD after being attack by the dastardly Iranians. Wouldn't surprise me to see them suing the Iranian government for billions of dollars of civil damages for the stress it caused.

Posted by: blowback | Nov 9 2012 20:03 utc | 21

Iranians could have just fired some warning shots that are not supposed to hit the aircraft. In which case, they did a good job.

Posted by: Forgetful | Nov 9 2012 20:11 utc | 22

@ CTuttle

That is really interesting. When I read your comment I thought

Regardless seems like any future Presidential run just took a serious hit. I'd say there is alot of shady stuff behind this.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 9 2012 20:14 utc | 23

Damnit that hyperlink messed up my comment above.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 9 2012 20:16 utc | 24

General jist was that Petraeus resigning citing an extramarital affair is very shady given the timing.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 9 2012 20:17 utc | 25

He should know better than anybody that you can't keep secrets from the CIA...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 9 2012 20:22 utc | 26

I'm thinking that Betrayus had the affair with a high ranking CIA Official's spouse, and that individual pushed the issue...! I don't think it has anything to do with 'Benghazi', unless that scorned official threatened to leak to Issa...! Pass the popcorn, folks...! ;-)

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 20:48 utc | 27


"I also just read that they sent Su-25's, which carry no missiles and are primarily ground-attack aircraft."

The Su-25K also has 2 pylons for R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) air-to-air missiles. The choice of Su-25 to intercept the drone was probably due to those aircraft being airborne and being the closest to where the drone intruded into Iranian air space. The Su-25 is more than capable of taking out any American, NATO or any of those supplied to the Israeli-American puppets in the region, BTW.

Posted by: вот так | Nov 9 2012 21:11 utc | 28

"any American, NATO or any of those supplied"

any American, NATO AIRCRAFT or any of the AIRCRAFT supplied

Posted by: вот так | Nov 9 2012 21:17 utc | 29

Not sure if this is important or not, but the Iranian SU-25s are all ex-Iraqi craft that fled during the first moments of the Gulf War. They were seized by the Revolutionary Guard, and are therefore operated by the RG, not by the regular Iranian airforce.

Posted by: Johnboy | Nov 9 2012 21:31 utc | 30


"but the Iranian SU-25s are all ex-Iraqi craft that fled during the first moments of the Gulf War."

Iran acquired 7 Su-25s from Iraq, they bought 6 more between 2005 and 2010 and now have 13 of these aircraft. As the Su-25 is extremely robust and serviceable, it's possible most of these are operational, or even all of them. For reference, some further info on Iran's AF:

And the Su-25's history:

Posted by: вот так | Nov 9 2012 22:02 utc | 31

Food for thought... David Petraeus and A Certain Suicide in Iraq...!

I hope it's the final nail in Betrayus political aspirations, and, most especially his infamous 'COIN' Manual...! Good riddance, to bad rubbish...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 22:16 utc | 32

A collection of statements from the major players... CIA Director David Petraeus Resigns...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 22:30 utc | 33

#17 Mr. Pragma the possibility that a rogue element in the US military or intelligence would try to provoke a crisis is reasonable. To this day I believe the US deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999. There is no evidence that this would have been a decision made at the highest levels so that leaves the possibility that some lower level official saw an opportunity to sour relations with China and took it.

I realize this is conjecture without much evidence but the important point is that positive feelings towards the US in China from that day have been in steady decline. That is, whoever was responsible they were successful in worsening US/China relations.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 9 2012 22:36 utc | 34

Petraeus Resigns Over Affair With Biographer
I wonder how the woman feels

"I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours"

And it seems to have taken some time for him to realise it.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 9 2012 23:06 utc | 35

Wolf Blitzer was just saying that Betrayus was being investigated over the extra-marital affair...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 23:08 utc | 36

It gives new meaning to the word embedded...

Posted by: dh | Nov 9 2012 23:10 utc | 37

dh @37 *heh* 'All In' indeedy...! ;-)

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 23:26 utc | 38

Stuxnet goes out of control: Chevron infected by anti-Iranian virus, others could be next

"America’s cyberwar is already seeing collateral damage, and it’s hitting the country’s own billion-dollar companies. Oil giants Chevron say the Stuxnet computer virus made by the US to target Iran infected their systems as well.

California-based Chevron, a Fortune 500 company that’s among the biggest corporations in the world, admits this week that they discovered the Stuxnet worm on their systems back in 2010. Up until now, Chevron managed to make their finding a well-kept secret, and their disclosure published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday marks the first time a US company has come clean about being infected by the virus intended for Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Mark Koelmel of the company’s earth sciences department says that they are likely to not be the last, though...."

Posted by: вот так | Nov 9 2012 23:41 utc | 39

FBI Investigation Led to Petraeus Resignation...

...However, an FBI source says the investigation began when American intelligence mistook an email Petraeus had sent to his girlfriend as a reference to corruption...

The investigation began last spring, but the FBI then pored over his emails when he was stationed in Afghanistan.

Given his top secret clearance and the fact that Petraeus is married, the FBI continued to investigate and intercept Petraeus’ email exchanges with the woman. The emails include sexually explicit references to such items as sex under a desk...

Naughty, naughty...! ;-)

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 9 2012 23:58 utc | 40

Hot on the heels of Betrayus... Lockheed Martin ousts CEO-to-be…

That would happen to be the chief purveyor of our Drones…!

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 10 2012 0:45 utc | 41

I wonder how the woman feels

Not someone you'd want to feel sorry for:

Her 'Peaches'

Posted by: biklett | Nov 10 2012 4:43 utc | 42

"Not someone you'd want to feel sorry for"

The first couple of minutes of that ???? leaves one wondering who was under the desk servicing Betrayus in the FBI email catches. Broadwell or Stewart?

Posted by: вот так | Nov 10 2012 5:08 utc | 43

Is that a fashion now? Seems affairs have replace travel expenses as reason to fire people.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 10 2012 5:29 utc | 44

Petraeus resigns over affair, as criticism grows of CIA response in Libya

Whatever the reason he's been forced out, it appears they decided to wait till after the [s]election. A [s]election that is looking more and more to have been preordained in its outcome...

Posted by: вот так | Nov 10 2012 5:38 utc | 45

Frankly I find it amazing that anyone's job could be on the line because they two-timed their spouse. This is particularly true in the case of a long term affair such as this one appears to be, where it is highly likely that the four participants in both marriages are aware of the situation and have come to terms with it.
Still that's fundamentalist xtian amerika in 2012.
I have my own view on the machinations that led to the resignation, and suspect that partisan politics, blackmail and the surprise ass kicking the dem faux lefities dealt to the rethug faux fascists last week were the actual drivers of Petraeus' 'resignation'.

There is no difference between the two parties as far as we are concerned, but that's not how it feels to those who choose to live their lives inside either one of the trade marked political movements, where brand loyalty is redolent of football team jocksteria.

Petraeus is a rethug the dems had to wear in the last term after it seemed momentum was moving towards rethugs. Oblamblam & Co grabbed Petraeus because they knew his rethug loyalties would make confirmation a doddle. The old school chicago ward heeler -sorry 'community organiser' had the dirt on Petraeus' infidelity thanks to dem control of the feebs so they knew Petraeus could be tamed.
Check out the war crims' record as boss of the CIA and you'll see little trace of the partisan shit stirring fiercely rethug general.

The election result - dems held control of the senate & with teh tea party looking past their use by date, it is now possible for war crim one to flick Petraeus (war crim 4 or 5 ) pasting the Benghazi misconceptions to his back while he's pushed outta Langley's back door.
(watch the way the xtian fundies will play down the 'bengazi conspiracy' if Petraeus comes back as 'the man from rethug' in 2016).

Oblammer gets to split the bengazi stink and maybe even get a dem party hack into the CIA gig win/win.

Petraeus plays the adultery card now because that frees him from dem pressure while giving him the maximum time possible to crank up familial history revisionism between now and the next rethug primary.

aint democracy grand, y'know I just can't understand why muslims won't have a bar of it.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Nov 10 2012 5:52 utc | 46

someone(american) who says hes in afghanistan makes this outrageous comment:
' Amazing. A self-styled 'human rights activist' interviews self-styled relatives of 'innocent victims.' We have only the self-styled 'survivors' word for it that innocent deaths or their injuries resulted from drone strikes [not, for instance, from traffic accidents, blood feuds, AQ or taliban bomb-making efforts gone awry, all of which are dramatically more prevalent than 'innocent' drone-strike victims]. The case is heard in Pakistan, not famed for independent judges, whose establishment midwifed the Taliban in 1994-5, facilitated their alliance with AQ in '96 and has enabled their decades of butchery and mass murder. This is transparent Pakistani govt propaganda. The only reason drone strikes are an issue is because they WORK. They're dramatically precise at targeting the pseudo-Islamic mass murderers whom key Pakistani officials still support, while MINIMIZING innocent casualties. Sorry to see the 'Mail' and many of its readers are such easy marks for this nonsense.
- John Jennings , Gardez, Afghanistan, 22/10/2012 12:36

US has some seriously morally disordered people

Posted by: brian | Nov 10 2012 7:25 utc | 47

Another piece about the serious problems defining an Iranian border.
Notes on the Iran-Iraq maritime boundary

As for SU-25. It is a ground attack fighter which means that it can fly rather slow, unlike a real fighter. A drone flies slow at some 170 mph. It is easier to take on a drone from a slow flying ground attack jet than from a fast mover.

Posted by: b | Nov 10 2012 14:45 utc | 48

I'm a little curious about how a modern fighter jet can fail to shoot down a drone aircraft. Was the pilot drunk, or just astoundingly incompetent??? Come on people, thats like an eagle not being able to outfly a penguin. Something ain't right here.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Nov 10 2012 15:42 utc | 49

@ PissedOffAmerican

I'm a little curious about how a modern fighter jet can fail to shoot down a drone aircraft.

Yeah its strange... but Israel last month also missed Hezbollah's drone on the fisrt strike.

According to the information provided by Israeli media outlets, radar stations detected the UAV when it was flying parallel to the coastline southbound from Lebanon. As said, two F-16s were scrambled to intercept the Slow Mover: they trailed the intruder for some 30 minutes before hitting the target as it was flying north of Beersheba.

Quite interestingly, the F-16 did not hit the drone on the first attempt: the Python IV missile launched by the Israeli plane missed the plane. Hence, the one that did destroy it, was a second air-to-air missile.

Don't know what the difficulty is. Maybe drones have low Infa-Red signatures that effect homing. Maybe it could be the smaller size (relative to jets) makes it harder. Most of these fighter jets and missiles were designed to counter other enemy jets not shoot small drones. Don't know what the reason but obviously in the last month both Israel and Iran have missed drone shots.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 10 2012 16:02 utc | 50


MiG-29s have no difficulty picking off drones...there was an incident of that a few years ago hyped in the fascist media.

On a slightly different subject:

US not qualified to join UN Human Rights Council: Iran

"Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman has called on the UN members to oppose Washington’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council, saying the country is not qualified to join the international body."

I think he's right about that.

Posted by: вот так | Nov 10 2012 17:06 utc | 51

"Don't know what the reason but obviously in the last month both Israel and Iran have missed drone shots. "

Well, there is no question that the Israelis were trying to shoot that drone down.
There is much more doubt about whether the Iranians were attempting to down that drone.

But note the essential difference: the Israelis fired missiles, while the Iranians fired their guns.

You can't fire a shot across the bows with a guided missile, but you can with a gun.

Personally, it looks to me like this:
1) The IDF didn't know what they were doing, which is why they were using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Which is why they missed on the first swing and pulverized the thing on the second.
2) The Iranians did know what they were doing, which was to shoo that drone away from their coast by firing a warning shot across its bow.

Posted by: Johnboy | Nov 10 2012 23:29 utc | 52

The way the Iranians worded their response to the western hype indicates that intercepting American drones is not unusual for them. The Israeli-Americans constantly use spy drones on all their victims and hoped for future victims. And they constantly push the limits so they can record data on the response. As we have not heard of an American drone being shot down (but one was hacked and captured), the Iranians probably use these encounters as something to have a bit of fun with and don't bother seriously trying to shoot them down.

(Counter intelligence need not always arrest or kill the opposing spy.)

Posted by: вот так | Nov 11 2012 1:41 utc | 53

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