December 13, 2011

Iran Says It Will Not Return U.S. Surveillance Drone; U.S. Contends the Drone Malfunctioned and Was Not Shot Down by Iran's Armed Forces

Bible prophecy describes the battle of Armageddon as a coalition of nations that will almost certainly include China and Russia and several Muslim nations of the Middle East. Every day, the evidence mounts that China will be tightly leagued with Russia and many of the Islamic nations in a powerful anti-Israel political and military alliance from which the 200-million-man army described in the book of Revelation (Rev. 9:16) will ultimately come. - The Sixth Trumpet War of Revelation 9

Iran Rejects U.S. Request to Return Spy Drone

December 13, 2011

Iran has--unsurprisingly--rejected an American request to return its downed spy drone.

President Obama, speaking at a news conference with the visiting Iraqi prime minister Monday, said the United States had asked Iran to give the downed American reconnaissance plane back.

"We've asked for it back," President Obama said of the drone Monday. "We'll see how the Iranians respond."

Iranian news agencies ridiculed the request on Tuesday as Iranian officials made clear they had no intention of giving back the American drone.

"Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane," proclaimed a headline from Iran's Fars News Agency Tuesday.

"We are still wondering how he shamelessly asked Tehran to give the US back the stealth drone which had violated the Iranian airspace for espionage," the news agency wrote, referring to the American president.

"The American espionage drone is now Iran's property, and our country will decide what steps to take regarding it," Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told ran's ISNA news agency Monday, according to a BBC report. In another statement t the Mehr news agency, Vahidi said that "instead of apologizing to the Iranian nation, [the U.S.] is brazenly asking for the drone back."

The unusual American-Iran media jousting over the downed RQ-170 drone came as an Iran prosecutor announced Tuesday that he has indicted 15 "American and Zionist" spies.

"IRNA on Tuesday quoted Tehran's chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi as saying the suspects carried out espionage activities against Iran," the Associated Press reported Tuesday. "He did not elaborate on the nationality of the suspects, nor say when they were detained."

Last week, Lebanon's al-Manar TV, which is controlled by the Iran-allied Shiite militant group Hezbollah, identified 10 alleged undercover CIA officers working in Lebanon with diplomatic cover.

"Hezbollah made the names public in a broadcast Friday night on a Lebanese television station, al-Manar," the Associated Press's Adam Goldman reported Monday. "Using animated videos, the station recreated meetings purported to take place between CIA officers and paid informants at Starbucks and Pizza Hut."

"The disclosure comes after Hezbollah managed to partially unravel the agency's spy network in Lebanon after running a double agent against the CIA, former and current U.S. intelligence officials said," Goldman wrote.

The CIA dismissed the claims made in the Hezbollah broadcast, citing CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood:

"The agency does not, as a rule, address spurious claims from terrorist groups. I think it's worth remembering that Hezbollah is a dangerous organization, with al-Manar as its propaganda arm. That fact alone should cast some doubt on the credibility of the group's claims."

Obama: We Asked Iran to Give Us Our Drone Back

The Envoy
December 12, 2011

President Obama has a message for Iran: He would like America's downed spy drone back.

Obama revealed the request for the return of the drone--which fell to earth in Iran recently, and has since been flaunted in video footage by the Iranian government--during a Monday White House news conference. The president shared the podium with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as both leaders discussed the future of American-Iraqi relations after the withdrawal this month of the last remaining U.S. troops.

But Obama's comments on the seized drone at least temporarily upstaged the designated subject of the conference--and are all but certain to become instant fodder for late-night comedy and GOP primary campaign barbs.

"We've asked for it back," President Obama said of the spy plane, according to an Agence-France Press report. "We'll see how the Iranians respond."

"With respect to the drone inside of Iran, I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified," he added.

Iran claimed to have brought down the RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone mostly intact eight days ago, after operators lost control of it on a classified CIA-Pentagon surveillance mission over the country. The very existence of the stealth reconnaissance plane-- dubbed the "Beast of Kandahar," and manufactured by Lockheed Martin--received no official acknowledgment from U.S. government circles until 2009. American officials more recently reportedly confirmed the RQ-170 was used for extended surveillance of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after the successful U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaida leader last May.

Iran--which has since lodged a formal diplomatic protest over the drone's apparent violation of Iranian air space--has given scant indication that it will leap to the Obama administration's request for the craft's return.

Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Brig. General Hossein Salami told Iran state television Sunday that Iran won't give the drone back, and regards "the drone's violation of Iranian airspace as a hostile act" by the United States, the Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink reported.

Already, partisan critics of the Obama White House could hardly contain their glee at news of the request. This was after all but the latest Western request that Tehran seemed likely to flout--along with several rounds of UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran curb its nuclear program.

"If you were Iran, and Pres O asked you to return our drone, what would you say??" Ari Fleischer, GOP public relations strategist and former spokesman for the George W. Bush White House, asked on Twitter.

"'O: I asked Iran 2 return drone & we'll see how they r[e]spond," Fleischer wrote in another Twitter post mocking the request. Ronald Reagan "didn't ask Iran 2 r[e]turn hostages. Iran feared him, so they were freed."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--who herself has occasionally revealed private talking points publicly--tried to blunt any suggestion of naivete in the U.S. request.

"We submitted a formal request for return" of the drone, but "don't expect them to comply," Clinton said Monday, CBS News' Cami McCormick reported.

Iran Says It Will Not Return U.S. Drone

The Associated Press
December 11, 2011

Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard said Sunday.

Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, said in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of Iran's airspace by the U.S. drone was a "hostile act" and warned of a "bigger" response. He did not elaborate on what Tehran might do.

"No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Salami said.

Iranian television broadcast video Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone.

Salami called its capture a victory for Iran and a defeat for the U.S. in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

"Iran is among the few countries that possesses the most modern technology in the field of pilotless drones. The technology gap between Iran and the U.S. is not much," he said.

Officers in the Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, had previously claimed that the country's armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.

American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials had spoken anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.

But Salami refused to provide more details of Iran's claim to have captured the CIA-operated aircraft.

"A party that wins in an intelligence battle doesn't reveal its methods. We can't elaborate on the methods we employed to intercept, control, discover and bring down the pilotless plane," he said.

Drone Crash Unmasks U.S. Spying Effort in Iran

December 9, 2011

The crash of a CIA drone in Iran has brought into the open what U.S. intelligence agencies would prefer kept secret: intense spying efforts in a country where the United States has no official presence.

Iran on Thursday aired with great flourish footage of the captured drone, which appeared largely intact. Pentagon and CIA spokesmen would not comment on whether it was the missing U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft.

A person familiar with the situation confirmed that the drone that crashed was on a surveillance mission over Iran.

It is believed to have crashed because of a malfunction and not from being shot down or computer-hacked by the Iranians, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

Although there are risks that Iran could attempt to reverse engineer the technology, or sell it to other countries, like China, U.S. officials believe that Iran will not be able to mine the drone's computer systems to learn details of the U.S. surveillance mission.

U.S. surveillance of Iran through various means has been going on for years, U.S. officials and others with direct knowledge of the situation say.

A private U.S. defense expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that when he visited the command center at a U.S. military base in the Gulf region in 2008, it was clear that the installation was receiving multiple feeds of electronic surveillance information from inside Iran.

Some of the information appeared to be transmitted from high-altitude aircraft and some from electronic sensors which the United States had somehow installed on the ground in Iran, the expert said.

The United States has no official presence in Iran so it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on inside its borders. One recent incident has yet to be fully unraveled.


On November 28, there were contradictory reports out of Iran on whether an explosion had occurred in the city of Isfahan, which is also home to a major nuclear site.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he has been studying imagery of that area and no damage was detected at the Isfahan nuclear site. But, he said, "it is credible there was an explosion, but not at the nuclear site."

He said it was puzzling that Iranians clearly said an explosion at a missile depot two weeks earlier had been an accident, but did not provide similar clarity about Isfahan.

"We're trying to figure out what actually happened," he said.

"Explosions are happening in Iran, and Iran is not making a big deal out of them. They are either calling them accidents or saying they didn't happen, and therefore when these things continue to happen it could be because intelligence agencies are actually now playing sabotage," Albright said.

In the earlier November 12 incident, Iran said a massive blast at a military base west of Tehran killed 17 members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including the head of its missile program, in an accident while weapons were being moved.

When unexplained events occur that appear to be aimed against Iran's nuclear program, experts often question whether U.S. and Israeli intelligence services were at work.

Iran also has had alleged covert operations against the West come to light. Recently, the United States arrested a man accused of being involved in a plot by Iranian agents to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington.

The U.S. government also accuses Iran of arming and funding Iraqi militias responsible for attacking American troops in Iraq.

U.S. officials do not appear to be the least bit disturbed about mishaps to Iran's nuclear and missile programs that include the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site.

"Whether it's due to technical difficulties, incompetence, or other reasons, some setbacks to Iran's activities are welcome," a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

Iran Releases Video of Downed U.S. Spy Drone–Looking Quite Intact

The Envoy
December 8, 2011

Iran's Press TV on Thursday broadcast an extended video tour of the U.S. spy drone that went down in the country late last week--and it indeed looks to be intact.

American officials have acknowledged that an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane was lost on a mission late last week, but have insisted that there is no evidence the drone was downed by hostile acts by Iran. Rather, they said, the drone likely went down because of a malfunction, and they implied the advanced stealth reconnaissance plane would have fallen from a high altitude--the RQ-170 Sentinel can fly as high as 50,000 feet--and as a result, wouldn't be in good shape.

Iranian military officials have claimed since Sunday they brought down an intact American spy drone--and now they are giving tours of the drone, in what is sure to be another humiliating poke in the eye for U.S. national security agencies.

"On Sunday December 4, the Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit downed the US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which was flying over the Iranian city of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225km) from the Afghan border," Iran's Press TV said in its report Thursday.

The New York Times reported Thursday that--unsurprisingly--the RQ-170 was lost while making the latest foray over Iran during an extended CIA surveillance effort of Iran's nuclear and ballistic weapons program.

"The overflights by the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin and first glimpsed on an airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2009, are part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran, current and former officials say," the Times' Scott Shane and David Sanger wrote. "The urgency of the effort has been underscored by a recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon."

Iran in turn has complained that the drone flights represent an act of aggression and violation of its sovereignty, and summoned the Swiss envoy--who represents U.S. interests in Iran--to register its complaints.

The video tour may also be a move to bid up the price Iran could receive for sharing the highly sophisticated American stealth drone technology with countries such as China and Russia.

That Secret Drone Lost in Iran Was Flying for the C.I.A.

The Atlantic Wire
December 6, 2011

The U.S. lost one of its most advanced surveillance drones on a C.I.A. mission in Iran, unnamed "U.S. officials" said on Monday, which means Tehran now likely possesses the stealth aircraft.

Little is known about the Lockheed-designed aircraft, and The Los Angeles Times says "the Pentagon has not revealed its price tag, size or top speed. But it has acknowledged this: The Sentinel may now be in Iranian hands." U.S. intelligence used the "jet-powered, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel drone" to perform surveillance on Osama bin Laden's compound last spring, which tells you something about how prized it is.

The Pentagon certainly doesn't want its military secrets getting to Iran, but according to one expert The Times interviewed, the larger worry is that Tehran will sell them far and wide.
"It carries a variety of systems that wouldn't be much of a benefit to Iran, but to its allies such as China and Russia, it's a potential gold mine," Peter W. Singer, author of Wired for War, told the paper.
The U.S. military first said it had lost a drone that was flying over western Afghanistan, but The Times suggested it may have strayed into Iran airspace by mistake. Sources told CNN, however, that they believed the drone went down in Afghanistan before Iran recovered it.
"They did not believe the mission involved flying the drone directly over Iran because the reconnaissance capability of the-RQ 170 drone allows it to gather information from inside Iran while remaining on the Afghanistan side of the border."
Either way, it's a big intelligence coup for Tehran and a real fumble for the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency.

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