“We’re absolutely certain that we were within international airspace, so their attack on the unmanned Predator — despite their assertions otherwise — was clearly a hostile act against our assets,” Dempsey said.
The drone was not struck by the Iranian fire and returned to its base. The incident was the first time Iran had fired on a U.S. drone, Department of Defense officials said.
The Pentagon contends that the attack occurred 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast, putting it in international waters, while Tehran says it shot at the drone because it entered into Iranian airspace.
Saleh Jokar, a senior Iranian parliamentary official, said that Iran took action to “shoo away” the drone, claiming the episode showed how prepared Iran was to respond to any aggression, according to Iran's semi-official FARS News Agency.
Dempsey said that it was unclear whether the drone attack was an indication that Tehran was responding with frustration to the U.S. sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy.
“It’s very difficult to see inside a nation and see their intent,” Dempsey said. “But there is clearly a pattern, and I think it’s one we have to keep an eye on.”