Iran’s military reportedly shot down a U.S. drone, and the two governments have offered conflicting accounts of where the drone was:

Iran shot down an airliner-size U.S. naval surveillance drone near the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian and U.S. officials said Thursday, adding to weeks of tensions in the Persian Gulf region amid growing concerns of a wider military confrontation.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement that it targeted the drone — which it identified as an RQ-4 Global Hawk — inside Iranian airspace over the southern province of Hormozgan, next to the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. Central Command confirmed the incident Thursday but denied that the aircraft was in Iranian airspace.

“Iran made a very big mistake!” President Trump tweeted Thursday in his first public comment on the incident.

Both governments have reason to lie about where the drone was. It doesn’t seem likely that Iran would want to provoke the U.S. by attacking a military drone, but it also seems extraordinarily reckless for the U.S. to fly such a large, slow-moving aircraft into Iranian airspace. No matter what happened, this is an incident that our government should use as an opportunity to back off and de-escalate tensions. It would be indefensible and insane to escalate this crisis into a shooting war over a downed drone. It is a measure of how ridiculous our foreign policy is that this is even a possibility. No doubt there will be more than a few warmongers hoping to use this as a pretext for starting the war they have wanted all along, and they mustn’t be allowed to get what they want. Congress has to make it absolutely clear that the president does not have the authority to order attacks on Iran, and they need to do that at once.

If the president genuinely doesn’t want to escalate the situation, he should have said nothing. Unfortunately, his terse and threatening comment suggests that he could be taking the U.S. and Iran closer to a disastrous collision. Trump has already foolishly led the U.S. to the edge of the abyss, and if he overreacts to this latest incident by starting a war he will be responsible for everything that follows. It bears repeating that all of this could have been easily avoided if Trump had not been pursuing a destructive anti-Iranian policy for more than a year. The Iran obsession has destabilized the region and needlessly brought us to the edge of a completely unnecessary war, and Trump is to blame for giving Iran hawks virtually everything they have wanted up until now. The president can still stop the worst-case scenario from happening, but only if he backs away from his bankrupt policy of confrontation and economic war. Congress and the public need to do everything they can to pressure him to make the right decision by refusing to offer him any support for military action.

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