Iran's military says it has shot down a US reconnaissance drone aircraft in eastern Iran, state TV reports. According to reports, Iranian authorities managed to seize the unmanned aircraft upon being downed, which they claim received "minimum damage."
"Iran's military has shot down an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," an unnamed source has reportedly told Iran's Arabic-language television network.
The RQ-170 sentinel "is a low observable unmanned aircraft system which the United States Air Force uses to "directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets."
According to the semi-official Fars news agency, Iran says it will continue to respond in kind to any drones that have violated the country's airspace, even from outside the country's borders.
However, US official say there is 'absolutely no indication' the drone which crashed in Iran was actually shot down.
This isn't the first time Iran has claimed to act against a US drone operating from within its borders. In July, Iranian officials said a US drone was shot down while flying over the city of Qom, which authorities contend was gathering intel on a nearby nuclear facility.
Sunday’s reports of the downed drone come as the conflict between the US and Iran centering around the Islamic republic's alleged nuclear weapons program continue to intensify.
In November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution urging Iran to provide access to its nuclear facilities to UN experts.
The resolution followed a November 8 IAEA report which claimed Iran had been actively developing weapons.
While Iran has continued to maintain that their nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes, the US and the European Union have chosen to tighten sanctions on key Iranian industries.
Diplomatic tensions between Iran and the West continued to intensify after dozen's of Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran Tuesday in response to the unilateral imposition of sanctions.
Britain immediately shut down its embassy in Tehran and subsequently closed the Iranian embassy in London on Wedensday, expelling all of its staff.
Other European countries also responded in kind, as Norway closed its embassy in Tehran, while Germany, ITaly, Sweden, and the Netherlands all opted to recall their ambassadors.
As the threats of even tighter sanctions loom over the country, Iran’s foreign ministry had responded that any attempts by the West to block oil exports would be met with a doubling of crude oil prices on the global market.
"As soon as such an issue is raised seriously the oil price would soar to above $250 a barrel," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reportedly said.
Iran, which received some $56 billion in the first seven months of 2011 from crude oil exports, is the world's third-largest crude exporter and heavily dependent on revenues generated from the trade.
And while no final agreement on an oil embargo against Iran has been agreed upon within Europe, tougher sanctions could be be finalized next week, as various EU heads of state are set to meet for a summit this coming Thursday.
Author and journalist Afshin Rattansi told RT the US has once again broken international law by sending the drone to Iran.
He says that the fact that Washington thinks it can send drones to Iran shows how out of touch the West is.
“They don’t really understand quite how powerful Iran has become both through the Arab awakening and through other huge geopolitical changes over the past 12 months.”
Rattansi believes that what is really happening is that those countries that have been running the world are losing power and this is their last attempt to cling on to it.