Iran's military on Friday is boasting that it has seized a pair of unmanned US vessels in the Red Sea at a moment tensions with Washington are at boiling point over arms transfers between Tehran and Moscow.
Iran's Navy Chief, Admiral Shahram Irani issued a statement describing that the sea drones posed safety issues to area maritime navigation, as quoted in semi-official Tasnim news agency. According to the Iranian navy statement, "Where maritime safety was threatened by the unjustified forces in the region, Iran's Army Naval Forces were able to seize 2 American unmanned vessels."
"The US should know it must comply with international laws if it is shipping somewhere," the admiral added. "The Islamic Republic of Iran, with its powerful presence in the region, will deal decisively with any move that endangers the security and safety of shipping, he stressed."
Little is as yet confirmed of the incident, which an initial statement from the US Navy calling the Iranian claims "not true". However, it appears something did happen, given other international monitors say they are tracking an incident unfolding.
According to Bloomberg, "The British Navy’s UKMTO said it is aware of reports of an incident in the vicinity of Ash Shihr, Yemen, according to a post on its website."
Both the US and Israel have of late stepped a joint naval presence in the Red Sea region, citing both threats from Iran and Yemeni Houthi rebels, which are backed by Tehran have at various times attacked Saudi Arabia.
Likely the incident involves the US Navy's cutting edge Saildrone Explorer USV (unmanned surface vehicle), a newly developed and deployed US-manufactured high tech data collection system which uses AI to autonomously gather oceanic and other intelligence.
A late August incident involved a US warship and helicopter thwarting an attempt by Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC Navy) to capture one or more Saildrones while traversing an area of the Persian Gulf. That prior incident resulted in the IRGC quickly releasing the drone after briefly capturing it. It's possible this latest Friday intercept may have again involved the IRGC navy briefly halting the drone's passage before releasing it upon a new threat by nearby US Navy assets, hence the US denial that it's been "captured".