Iranian soldiers take part in the "National Persian Gulf day" in the Strait of Hormuz, on April 30 - Photo: AFP.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The United States (US) military has destroyed an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of one of its naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

The incident was first revealed by US’ President Donald Trump on Thursday (07/18), who said that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took defensive action after the drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.

“The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump announced at the White House, adding that unmanned aircraft threatened the safety of the American ship and its crew, and called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.

He said: “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”

The Pentagon said in a statement that the incident happened in international waters while the USS Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Gulf. The USS Boxer had taken “defensive action” against a drone but did not mention whether the aircraft was Iranian.

The chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a written statement: “A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”

However, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to the United Nation in New York on Thursday, told reporters: “We have no information about losing a drone.” So far, no immediate response was issued by Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the US to avoid any steps that would stoke further tensions with Iran. Any reckless moves can lead to conflicts fraught with unpredictable and destructive consequences, Lavrov told German newspaper Rheinische Post in an interview posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website on Thursday.

The policy of complete strangulation of the Iranian economy pursued by Washington has led to a sharp exacerbation of the situation in the Gulf region, Lavrov said, calling the US course “short-sighted and dangerous.”

Tensions in the Gulf region are high in the wake of Trump’s decision in May last year to pull out of a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and impose an oil and banking embargo on Iran. There has been a sharp increase in incidents in the Gulf, exacerbating worries about the US and Iran stumbling into war.

Iran recently shot down a US drone that it said was flying over Iranian waters. Trump ordered a retaliatory military attack but called it off at the last moment, saying the risk of casualties was disproportionate to the shootdown by Iran, which did not cost any US lives.

The US has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery – accusations Tehran rejects.

A day before, Washington demanded Iran immediately release a vessel it seized in the Gulf, and a US military commander in the region said the US would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized the foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday, Iranian state TV reported.

The heightened tension between the two countries directly impacts on world oil prices. Today, oil prices rose more than 1 percent. Brent crude futures were up 82 cents, or 1.3 percent, at $62.75 by 0100 GMT. They closed down 2.7 percent on Thursday, falling for the fourth day. West Texas Intermediate crude futures firmed 61 cents, or 1.1 percent, at 55.91. They fell to 2.6 percent in the previous session.

Still, the longer-term outlook for oil has grown increasingly bearish. The International Energy Agency (IEA) is reducing its 2019 oil demand forecast due to a slowing global economy amid a US-China trade spat, it’s executive director said on Thursday.

The IEA is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) and may cut it again if the global economy and especially China shows further weakness. Last year, the IEA predicted that 2019 oil demand would grow by 1.5 million bpd but had already cut the growth forecast to 1.2 million bpd in June this year.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com