DEBKAfile Special Report December 4, 2011, 9:34 PM (GMT+02:00)
Tehran quickly latched onto US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's warning Friday, Dec. 2 that an Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities would cause unpredictable results. Sunday, Iran issued two threats: to hit back beyond its borders for a US reconnaissance drone which its military claimed to have shot down in the near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan and that an oil embargo on its exports would boost the price of oil to $250 a barrel.
This was another way of threatening a tit for tat in the form of a blockade on the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil channel in the world, and the transit of Saudi and Gulf oil. This was a reference to another of the US defense secretary's warning Friday that: "…any disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a very grave threat to all of us" and a red line for the US."
The unmanned aerial vehicle the Iranian military claimed in a report on English language Press TV to have shot down Sunday over the eastern part of the country was described in Tehran's statement was an RQ-170.
Iranian sources in Tehran report it was flying over the underground Fordo facility near Qom, where debkafile's military and intelligence sources uranium is being covertly enriched from 20 to 60 percent.
The Iranians did not say when the incident happened. However, some confusion set in when NATO command in Afghanistan later said a US unarmed reconnaissance aircraft flying over western Afghanistan had been missing since late last week.
The US RQ-170 drone is an unarmed, unmanned stealth aircraft equipped with the most advanced reconnaissance instruments for detecting nuclear weapons systems.
Our sources report that these spy planes operate over Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Turkey as well as Iran and Afghanistan.
The Iranian news agencies quoted senior Iranian officers as claiming the seized the drone which was downed with minimum damage. Their threat to retaliate outside Iran's borders for its alleged intrusion was not specific. It may well extend to embattled Syria to demonstrate that Iran keeps faith with its allies. Some Middle East military sources suggest that Iran might try to shoot down US drones over Turkey to warn Ankara to keep its hands off Syria. In the past week, Turkish leaders were again saying they had lost patience with Bashar Assad's brutality and intransigence and were close to sending troops across the border to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria for refugees and rebels.
Iran might also use its Lebanese pawn, Hizballah, to shoot down Israeli spy planes over that country's air space.
The foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast in Tehran said Sunday that as soon as the United State and the West propose imposing an embargo on Iranian oil exports, "the price of oil will soar above $250 a barrel. Therefore, any attempt to strangle the Iranian economy by choking off its oil exports will be met by retaliation in kind, the blockage of the Strait of Hormuz to Saudi and Gulf oil.