Shortly after 4 a.m. on Thursday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired a missile at a U.S. drone flying near the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic gateway for world oil supplies. The unmanned spy plane, which cost more than a hundred million dollars, and had a wingspan of a hundred and thirty feet, exploded in a fireball. Tehran tweeted the drone’s purported coördinates in its airspace. The Trump Administration countered that the attack occurred over international waters and was “unprovoked.” Several hours later, President Trump ordered a retaliatory strike on three targets, then cancelled it at the last minute, because, he said in a tweet on Friday, the potential death toll was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” But tensions between the two countries remain higher than at any point in three decades.
The missile strike intersects with two other flash points. The Administration blames Tehran for attacks on international shipping—six foreign oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman since May 12th—and for aggressive acts by proxies in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. Iran is also threatening to breach the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in July, unless major powers, notably in Europe, provide the economic benefits that it promised. Trump unilaterally—and recklessly—abandoned the deal a year ago, then reimposed punitive sanctions. Iran’s oil exports have plummeted—from 3.2 million barrels a day to some half a million. Now, in response, Tehran says that it will exceed the limits that the deal placed on its nuclear program, starting with the enrichment of a higher grade of uranium. The threat may be brinkmanship, but, in theory, that uranium could also be used to fuel a bomb within a year.
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