Setting up another Gulf of Tonkin?

Most of the shining objects that our people see in Iran’s airspace are American spying equipment used to spy on Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.” That was Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi commenting on the prevelance of U.S. unmanned spy drones operating over his country in 2005. Back then, the aircraft were reportedly so prevalent that they stirred ...

604754_global_hawk_05.jpg
604754_global_hawk_05.jpg

Most of the shining objects that our people see in Iran's airspace are American spying equipment used to spy on Iran's nuclear and military facilities."

That was Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi commenting on the prevelance of U.S. unmanned spy drones operating over his country in 2005. Back then, the aircraft were reportedly so prevalent that they stirred up a frenzy of sightings. Yunesi then threatened to shoot down the drones. "If any of the bright objects come close, they will definitely meet our fire and will be shot down," he said at the time.

Now, at least one Iranian official is claiming that Iran has made good on that threat. Iran's Fars News Agency, in an unconfirmed report that quotes an Iranian lawmaker, says the country has shot down an unmanned American spy plane in recent days.

Most of the shining objects that our people see in Iran’s airspace are American spying equipment used to spy on Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.”

That was Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi commenting on the prevelance of U.S. unmanned spy drones operating over his country in 2005. Back then, the aircraft were reportedly so prevalent that they stirred up a frenzy of sightings. Yunesi then threatened to shoot down the drones. “If any of the bright objects come close, they will definitely meet our fire and will be shot down,” he said at the time.

Now, at least one Iranian official is claiming that Iran has made good on that threat. Iran’s Fars News Agency, in an unconfirmed report that quotes an Iranian lawmaker, says the country has shot down an unmanned American spy plane in recent days.

Whether or not the report is true, it is disconcerting. The new head of CENTCOM, Admiral Fallon, is said to be a strategic bombing guru. And the Pentagon is sending a second U.S. carrier battle group to the region in order to counter, in Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s words, the Iranian perception that “we are tied down in Iraq.” That escalation will no doubt mean increased air operations in the region. And if recent comments coming out of the White House are any indication, intelligence operations over Iran, whether manned or unmanned, are likely to be a part of that.

That should make any student of history a little nervous. Does anyone remember 1964, when another electronic intelligence gathering mission went bad? That one, in the Gulf of Tonkin, helped justify the escalation of the Vietnam War. At least one U.S. Congressman worries that the Pentagon may be preparting to stage a similar incident with Iran. That scenario seems a little far-fetched. But with an escalation of forces in the region, we should hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.

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