'US can't do a damn thing' says Iran after drone capture

US fears China and Russia will learn military secrets as both request permission to inspect Sentinel

BY Kieron Monks LAST UPDATED AT 14:45 ON Fri 9 Dec 2011

IRANIAN state TV has broadcast images of the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone which was captured deep inside Iran's borders on Sunday. The broadcast claims the advanced surveillance plane, which can intercept communications and gather images but carries no weapons, was bought down by an 'electronic ambush'. In the footage, it is shown alongside a banner bearing a quote from former leader Ayatollah Khomeini which reads: "The US can't do a damn thing".
 
This is reportedly the first ever Sentinel to have been lost. It represents a serious concern that what The Daily Telegraph describes as "one of the world's most powerful intelligence assets" has fallen into enemy hands.
 
"If the American plane is more modern than those used by Iran, we will without doubt duplicate it and build one of our own", said Hussein Ibrahimi of Iran's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, according to the Lebanese Al-Manar agency.
 

 
But the US may be more concerned about the possibility that China or Russia could gain access to their most advanced military technology. Both have requested Iran's permission to inspect the drone and both have reasonable relations with the Tehran regime. In 2001, the US was forced to upgrade its entire fleet after China captured a P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft.
 
Iran is also keen to hold the US accountable for the drone's violation of its air-space. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee has lodged a formal complaint with the UN claiming "this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States is an act of hostility against Iran in clear contravention of international law and the United Nations Charter". Tehran is demanding an apology and financial compensation.
 
The incident comes as the US seeks to step up the pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Earlier in the week, The Washington Post reported that increased use of drones represented an "escalating espionage campaign" as part of the Obama administration's "shift toward a more confrontational approach". There are suggestions that Iranian targets are already being attacked. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.