A senior commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Friday that the country could have downed a U.S. surveillance aircraft carrying American personnel on Thursday when it destroyed a U.S. drone in international airspace.
“We could have targeted a P-8 American plane” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s aerospace force, said. “But we did not do this.” He claimed that the aircraft carried a crew of 35 and had infiltrated Iranian airspace.
U.S. officials confirmed that a P-8 surveillance aircraft was operating in the area at the time Iran shot down a RQ-4 drone but stressed that both vehicles were in international airspace when targeted by Iran.
They observed that the P-8 aircraft is configured to carry a crew of 9 people – far less than the crew of 35 that Iran says was onboard the plane. Iran had also lied about the drone attack, releasing a photograph purporting to show the burning vehicle falling from the sky but the image was taken two years ago in Yemen.
Reuters reported Friday that Iran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump saying he was against war and urging the country to come to the table to hold talks in a message conveyed through Oman.
“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues,” one Iranian official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second Iranian official said the Islamic Republic had made “it clear that the leader [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision.”
Trump said he aborted a military strike on Iran because it could have killed 150 people, sparing Iranian lives. The New York Times reported that U.S. warplanes took to the air and ships were put in position for a retaliatory attack on the country on Thursday, before receiving orders to stand down without any weapons being fired. Targets reportedly included Iranian radar and missile batteries.