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Iranian military shoots down U.S. drone and pushes tensions further

Heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen further, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone. President Trump called the incident a “very big mistake” but later appeared to downplay it. The Iranian military warned that an enemy in its territory would be “destroyed,” but the head of U.S. air forces in the Middle East said the drone had never entered Iranian airspace. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are running even higher tonight after the Iranians shot down a U.S. drone. President Trump called it a very big mistake, but he also appeared to play down the incident.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today in Tehran, speaking to a stadium of supporters, the commander in chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps delivered a threat, as state TV released video of what it said was the launch of a missile and strike of a U.S. drone.

  • Hossein Salami (through translator):

    The downing of the American drone was a clear and precise message to America, and the message is this: An enemy that violates our borders will not return and will be destroyed.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today at the Pentagon, a spokesman introduced the head of U.S. Air Forces in the Middle East, who, by phone, delivered a counter.

  • Joseph Guastella:

    This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Both sides agree Iran shot down RQ-4A drone, whose wingspan is wider than a 737's. The U.S. military says this video shows the drone's smoke trail.

    The he said/he said is over the drone's location. The U.S. military released this Google map showing what it said was the SAM, or surface-to-air, missile launch site and UAV, or drone location, over international waters.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted what appeared to be a hand-drawn map, and said the drone violated Iranian airspace, and was shot down in Iranian territorial waters.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I think probably Iran made a mistake.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    At the White House, during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Trump left open the possibility the strike wasn't ordered by Iran's senior leadership.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth. I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But regardless of who exactly ordered the attacks, the U.S. accuses Iran of escalating its resistance.

    Last week, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and, last month, four tankers in a nearby port were attacked by what U.S. officials say were Iranian mines. That came after the U.S. has accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier and sent bombers and an additional 2,500 troops.

    And the U.S. continues to sanction all Iran oil exports, threatening its ability to pay its bills. Today, on Capitol Hill, after a quickly called closed-door briefing by the administration, senators split on how the U.S. should respond. Trump ally South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham:

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    So here's what Iran needs to get ready for, severe pain inside their country.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And after an emergency meeting with top lawmakers at the White House, Senate Minority Leader New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    The president may not intend to go to war here, but we're worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war. One of the best ways to avoid bumbling into a war, a war that nobody wants, is to have a robust, open debate, and for Congress to have a real say.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump said today he would balance campaign promises with a desire to respond.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Look, I said I want to get out of these endless wars. I campaigned on that. I want to get out. But this is something — this is a new wrinkle, this is a new fly in the ointment, what happened, shooting down the drone. And this country will not stand for it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And that means the tension will increase, and the cycle of confrontation will continue.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will discuss the implications of all of this right after the news summary.

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