CBS News – April 27, 2019
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard successfully managed a surveillance flight over a U.S. aircraft carrier, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Saturday. The report included footage apparently from a Guard drone that flew over the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and another U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf.
The images show fighter planes parked on the carrier deck. Tasnim did not say when the footage was shot.
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) April 27, 2019
The development comes after the U.S. government earlier this month designated the Guard as a terrorist group to increase pressure on Iran and further isolate the country. “The IRGC masquerades as a legitimate military organization, but none of us should be fooled,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier this month.
CBS News “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan reported that White House officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Pompeo himself, had been arguing for the designation for some time. The Pentagon, however, had voiced concerns about the designation given the close proximity of U.S. troops in Syria to Iranian forces.
Iran responded by labeling all U.S. forces as terrorists.
Lt. Chloe J. Morgan, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokesperson, said in an email that the Eisenhower has not been in the Persian Gulf since 2016. She said the U.S. and its allies are committed to freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.
The strait, which sees nearly a third of all oil traded by sea pass through it, has been the scene of past confrontations between the U.S. and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988. In recent years, the U.S. Navy has accused Iranian patrol boats of harassing American warships in the waterway.
The drone that took the footage is an Ababil-3 with an eight-hour flight capability at 12,000 feet and a 155-mile range.
The Trump administration said Monday that it will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, stepping up pressure on Iran in a move that primarily affects the five remaining major importers: China and India and U.S. treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
The move is part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran that aims to eliminate all of its revenue from oil exports, which the U.S. says are used to destabilize the region.
Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have escalated since the Trump administration’s pullout of the Iran nuclear agreement. The administration has since imposed the harshest sanctions on Iran to date.
Iran reiterated its long-running threat to close the Strait of Hormuz if it’s prevented from using the crucial waterway in the Persian Gulf, through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes.
In 2016, Iran’s navy similarly took video footage of the nuclear-powered carrier USS Harry Truman, based in Norfolk, Virginia, while it was in the Persian Gulf region launching airstrikes and supporting operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.