The Iranian attack on a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf risks military escalation of hostilities between the two countries, although the administration has shown restraint.
Two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed Predator drone flying a surveillance mission over international waters 16 miles off the coast of Iran on Nov. 1. The jets continued to follow the drone before heading back to Iran. The Pentagon did not disclose the pre-election incident that could have factored into the campaign and commented only after it had been reported by news organizations. Defense officials revealed that the surveillance has been ongoing for months.
The White House formally protested the latest incident, but an unidentified senior official told the New York Times that were wary of the possibility of unintended consequences.
America and other world powers have tried to isolate Iran diplomatically over its nuclear development program, which the United States believes is aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapon, something Iran denies. Israel has threatened a unilateral pre-emptive attack to disable Irans nuclear facilities before it develops a bomb. It has also called on President Obama to draw a red line Iran cannot cross without a U.S. military response.
No American lives were at risk in the drone attack. However, the confrontations will probably continue as Iran asserts its role in the militarized region. Iran could cross that unspoken red line if its aggressive actions harm American troops.