Iranians fired missile at US drone prior to tanker attack, US official says
In the hours before the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the Iranians spotted a US drone flying overhead and launched a surface-to-air missile at the unmanned aircraft, a US official reported .
The missile missed the drone and fell into the water, the official said.
Prior to taking fire, the American MQ-9 Reaper drone observed Iranian vessels closing in on the tankers, the official added, though the source did not say whether the unmanned aircraft saw the boats conducting an actual attack.
Still, it is the first claim that the US has information of Iranian movements prior to the attack.
Iran has strenuously denied any involvement in the attack.
The same official also said in the days prior to the attack, a US Reaper drone was shot down in the Red Sea by what is believed to be an Iranian missile fired by Houthi rebels.
The Pentagon had tough words for Iran on Friday as the US continues to assert its claim that Tehran was responsible for the attack on the two oil tankers in international waters after releasing video footage its says shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels' hulls.
"We're making sure that General McKenzie and the central command has the resources and the support that they need to conduct their missions," acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, adding that the US continues to work on building an international consensus that Iran was behind the attack.
A senior diplomatic source of a US ally told CNN Friday, "It is a virtual certainty Iran was behind this latest attack. The video now nails it."
The source added that the goal of the response from the US government thus far is all about publicly exposing Iranian actions and intensifying maximum pressure.
After the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, it adopted a policy of maximum economic pressure and sent a carrier group to the region, the source said this "Iranian retaliation is designed to show they can disrupt, and push oil prices up."
The Trump administration predicted that the pressure from the United States would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but European leaders disagreed, believing it would empower the hardliners, the source continued.