Dempsey: ‘Measured Response’ to Iran’s firing on Predator

The nation’s top military officer kept a focus on Iran Monday even as he joined a post-election Far East swing with top defense and diplomatic officials to highlight the Obama administration’s intended strategic shift to the Pacific region.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the firing last week by Iranian warplanes on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone over the Persian Gulf was “clearly a hostile act” but the U.S. would take a “measured response” to the incident.

Dempsey said the drone flights over the Gulf would continue and suggested that U.S. fighter aircraft in the region would be prepared to respond to an attack. But Dempsey left wiggle room to avoid a confrontation, saying that the U.S. and Iran differed on how the 12 nautical mile limit on sovereign air and sea space was interpreted.

According to the Pentagon’s account, the Predator was on a routine surveillance mission at about 4:50 a.m. EST over the Persian Gulf on Nov. 1 and was operating at a distance of about 16 miles off the Iranian coastline when two of Iran’s aging, Soviet- made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes approached.

At least one of the single-seat Sukhois fired “multiple rounds” at the Predator from its wing-mounted, twin-barrel, 30mm AQ-17A mini-gun, but missed its target. The slow-moving Predator moved further off the coastline but the Sukhois pursued and one of them fired and missed again, Pentagon officials said.

The Nov. 1 Persian Gulf incident was not disclosed until Nov. 8, two days after the election, and the aggressive action by Iran has now become part of a mix of national security events that  Congressional Republicans have claimed were kept under wraps to aid in President Obama’s re-election. Critics of the administration have also focused on the timeline of the Benghazi consulate attack and the scandal over CIA Director David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer.

Dempsey made his comments on Iran to the Armed Forces Press Service on the plane taking him to Perth, Australia, where he was joining Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, in meetings with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The group will also go to Thailand and Cambodia to discuss the U.S. “Pacific pivot.”

The military re-balance is part of a deliberate process that will take years and that the administration has insisted is not meant to confront China. “We are playing the long game here,” said a senior defense official traveling with Panetta.

“The resources are moving,” the official told AFPS, and “the engagement of senior-level officials is there, and the bureaucratic weight and the time, attention and resources of the United States government are moving toward the Pacific theater.”

But the administration is also committed to the indefinite deployment of two aircraft carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf region to counter Iran’s nuclear buildup and threats to shut down the oil lifeline through the Straits of Hormuz.

Iran on Monday began major air defense exercises meant to send a “strong warning” to the U.S. and Israel against military action, the website of Iran’s Revolutional Guards said.

The exercises will test “fixed, mobile and tactical radar devices and tactical and airborne electronic surveillance systems,” said Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of the Guards’ air defense command.

The U.S. has been broaching what has been termed a “more for more” diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons through a new round of negotiations with the P5 plus one – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

Under the proposed deal, Iran would gain more in the way of eased economic sanctions in return for more safeguards and international monitoring to ensure that its nuclear programs are used for peaceful purposes.

At a World Affairs Council forum last Friday, Dennis Ross, a former top Mideast negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations, said Iran recently has been sending signals “to position themselves to justify a new negotiation.”

The economic sanctions have been hitting hard, Ross said.

“Every month, their currency is devalued by half,” Ross said. “I do see a diplomatic way out.”

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for He can be reached at
  • Roy Smith

    Could someone please stop these stupid “Rumors of War?” It was just a drone,no “humans” were hurt in this incident(& neither was the drone by the way).

    • Menzie

      Which rumor are you referring to? No rumor in this article, just the reporting of the incident and the political fallout of it. The measured response quote does not insinuate war.

      • Roy Smith

        I just mean the generalized “Wars & ‘Rumors of War'” that always seem to revolve & swirl around Iran. Probably just like everything else about Iran,the drone incident is also being blown out of proportion.

        • Dayne

          its because like it or not, Iran is looking for a beating. They think if they put on the tough guy act with the west that they will scare us away. the west has been extremely Lenient on them considering the type of crap they have been pulling

          • lamel80

            Like Korea?

        • Teddy

          It’s still an act of aggression manned or unmanned they are trying to send a msg

          • krypton

            All they’re really doing is shooting at a painting of a plane. That’s why they use the predators: it beats the daylights out of them shooting down recons with real people aboard. If they shoot them down, so what? They feel like superman and we just have a lieutenant in a trailer with a “GAME OVER” message box. That’s the “message”.

    • CurtisE

      You’re usuallly last to the party, aren’t you, Roy…unbelievable, and yet so indicative of what just happened in our last election cycle…God Help America…

      • Roy Smith

        I am just sick & tired of fighting endless wars against an amorphous enemy-the definition of which is CONSTANTLY changing. If it weren’t for Jimmy Carter’s bungling in the 70’s,Iran wouldn’t be our enemy today,the Shah would still be in power,& the Soviet Union would not have invaded Afghanistan,setting up the total mess we see there today. I am just “war weary” & I’m very tired of our constantly looking for other wars to replace the wars we just ended in Iraq & soon to end in Afghanistan. I wish it was still September 10,2001,when we were still a free nation & had liberty & no “Patriot Act,” because on September 11th,we lost both when the towers went down. It’s Carter’s fault we are having problems with Iran today.

        • blight_

          Carter had little to do with Iran.

          Shah Pahlavi was going to bring the house down anyways. His attempts to modernize were unpopular, and like other Middle Eastern dictators he did not ensure that his secret police would be powerful enough to do the job right. He also made the mistake of letting the Ayatollah return home, and also did not pressure Iraq into handing him over for imprisonment/execution before he became a hero figure.

    • England

      It was just a drone that cost about 4.5 million a piece, and the cost of operation is far beyond this, and how many acts of aggression have been taken against us and other nations that we just let slide? Let me put this story in a different situation, you have a brand new sports car that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some person started shooting at your car with no one in it, what actions would you take? My guess would be call the police and they would take further action, because most likely you wouldnt just say the car wasnt hit, i wont report anything. The fact of the matter is that its an act of aggression pilot or not, they shot at a U.S. plane in international airspace, over international waters.

      • bleh

        1. Operating costs are irrelevant because none of the operators were involved. That’s the whole point of drones.

        2. $4.5m is less than 1:100,000 of the Pentagon budget.
        If you make $100,000 a year (which would put you among the top income earners almost everywhere) then the correct analogy would be a candy bar for $1.

        Would you really kill a guy because he tried to throw your Snickers bar into the trash?

        3. If $4.5m is the price of a new Predator drone you’d have to take into account depreciation. Just saying.

    • infidel

      shouldn’t you be out shopping for rags for your head Roy?

    • johnarenas

      why are all the military leaders afraid of iran? the usa navy is the only branch of the service willing to spar with iran.
      try to remember that the iranians are getting closer and closer to building an atomic bomb, to destroy the holy lands in israel. we are mostly christians and jews that want to stop this nuclear project, before it gets beyond the point of no return.
      the only way to cease the work is through military action, in my opinion. diplomacy has been a big failure. they are just ‘buying time’ , pretending to be serious about negotiations while going about their business, to enrich uranium to ‘bomb grade’.
      putin and medvedev are selling the nuclear blueprints to build it.

  • zap

    “the U.S. and Iran differed on how the 12 nautical mile limit on sovereign air and sea space was interpreted.”
    so in other words it was flying within what Iran considers it airspace .
    So was this the boarder between Iran or Iraq ? again
    or somewhere else in the gulf ? if its somewhere else then that statement is quite worrying

    • Belesari

      No this was the gulf. Iran like china interprets what no one else would see. Iran believes it owns the gulf and the straights.

      • SJE

        Agreed. A few years ago the Iranians kidnapped/detained a British force just off Basra, asserting that they were in Iranian waters.

  • octopusmagnificens

    Less measure is necessary.

    • infidel

      Have some more KOOL-AID OctopuSS!

  • anthony

    Maybe they are testing their drones,And you out there know just as well as me that they can never closethat straight if they did all their arabic countries would start a attack on Iran as alot of western countries,it will never get this far..

    • Thunder350

      Mad men don’t think clearly. Some men just want to see the world burn. Rather religious reasons or just plain psycho..

  • Bruce B

    All the GCC nations call this body of water the Arabian Gulf while only Iran insists that it be called the Persian Gulf by all map makers including Google. Only they call it their Gulf, stake their claim and occupy three islands belonging to the UAE.

  • SJE

    Two relatively slow moving combat jets fire multiple rounds at a very slow moving prop plane, and miss. Either there was no intention of hitting it, or the Iranians are grossly inept. I can’t wait to see the latest regime propaganda, in which brave Iranian pilots defend the people and the faith against swarms of crusader-zionist drones

    • Curtis

      They’re grossly inept, SJE…these kind of things will escalate…bank on it. Now that the election cycle is over, Obama can hopefully do what he couldn’t before…act like a US president and not like a member of the UN council…I can dream, can’t I!?

    • 7113

      The reason they missed they were to busy praying and only had one hand for the stick and one hand for the Koran, they could not even have picked there nose they were so busy.

  • LeeRetArmy

    The weapon fired at the drones was not a “mini gun” it is a twin barrelled 30mm cannon with varieing rates of fire. Since the Su-25 is primarily a ground attack aircraft I doubt the pilots really have much experience at air to air even with a slow moving drone. With or without a pilot and American aircraft is an American Aircraft, if it is in international air space they have no right to attack. I think it is time we armed our drones with air to air weapons for defense purposes.

    • Luis Manuel

      Woo Hoo, Now there is the 1st solution that makes any sense. When in doubt of the enemy’s intentions, Get Armed!

  • Brad

    12 NM is 12 NM. The LOS works it out when there are inlets or bays that would make the distance measurements angle against eachother. Its quite clear the drone was in international airspace

    • bleh

      You mean the LOS the US didn’t sign and Iran did sign but not ratify?

      • Lol

        Assuming it actually was 12NM outside

        Remember the last drone that was supposed to be outside of Iranian airspace far away from the border inside Afghanistan?
        Turned out it was flying deep inside Iran instead and they just lied.

  • Srslywhat

    Maybe they should just stay out of Iranian airspace and stop spying them.

    Then U.S.A. mongrels wouldn’t have nothing to cry about Iranian “aggression”.

    • Larry

      When some knuckle dragger’s tell you that they want to kill you it open up all sorts of doors.

    • Guest


  • Lance

    Once again lucky it was a SU-25 (which isn’t obsolete like the author thinks), been worse with a F-4 which could have easily blown the Predator drone away.

    Time to use Satellites or a new high speed recon plane for this not no dorky drones.

  • infidel

    Maybe you should go back to where u came from haj!

  • GreenTeainCombat

    How hard is it to hit a drone with a gun pod? My guess is that it was a warning shot, or the Persian aren’t carrying enough ammo in their pods to adjust their fire to really shoot it.

    But given how little we know, I question the wisdom of the media characterizing this as an attempted shoot down.

  • HR

    While the Iranians were busy pursuing the drones I’m sure we were looking up there dress with something better

  • HR

    While the Iranians were busy pursuing the drones I’m sure we were looking up there skirt with something better

    • blight_

      Hopefully not another UAV.

      Perhaps a U-2 (familiar to old Iranian Air Force guys since Iran was a covert landing site for U-2’s) would do the trick. But if another one got shot down…hrmm…

  • Rob

    My measured response would be to give/sell/setup anti-aircraft systems to Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    A storm is brewing in the East. China,Russia,North Korea,Iran, Syria are all sharing tech to various degrees. Don’t be fooled, they prepare.

  • Zach

    It’s just a dream, but I can totally see some Predator driver playing “Highway to the Danger Zone” on Spotify and squeezing off an Aim-9 or two. Imagine the uproar and upheaval;

    They’ll have to paint a kill mark on that drone, and that armchair pilot would never buy his own drinks again.

  • Larry Simms

    Perhaps the thing to do is to arm the Predator with two aft facing Stinger missiles, modified to acquire and fire on demand. In other words lock on to any target that they acquire and fire automatically. Sure to embarrass any Iranian that gets shot down by one.

    • Sky King

      “lock on and fire automatically”?? Wonderful idea except what if it happens to be a civilian airliner which strays into it’s flight path. I still think you need the “human touch” in these matters.

      • Thunder350

        Yup, gotta prevent skynet from taking over! XD

      • blight_

        Vincennes the sequel, but with drones.

  • robertro2

    this general can not do or say anything until he is told by his CiC,it was not hit and came back ok…..they said it was not in there air space,can we believe this from this govt. ….

  • galloglas

    “Measured Response”
    Sure, like in Benghazi at the mass murder location consulate/prison/arms transfer site/etc.
    Measured response from the Obama admin means, “They ain’t gonna do jack sheet” but are talking bull sheet as usual.
    Hell, it was an unarmed and unmanned drone, wait until some clown knocks an airliner out of the sky with those SA-24 MANPADS the area has been flooded with, say an Israeli airliner.
    Then the whole shebang will go boom.

  • bahman

    “iranian people trample americans” listen to this carefully , this is from our leader ,ayatollah khomeyni , a man for god ..

  • vikash

    i think that the drone had crossed the limit that’s why it is being targeted.

  • marc27

    i think the level of toleration that we are having with iran is way too high, that should it been taken as an aggressive act and the two migs should have been shot down no questions ask.

  • Dennis

    I’m sure we have to give the Iranian pilots some credit they were probably warning shots.
    I’m sick of seeing writing that my god this and my god that. The truth is you have no GOD unless you have JESUS CHRIST as your LORD and SAVIOR. The Lord plays no favorites. If you act Righteously according to his rules of love and tolerance and understanding then you will gain favor from him. He says we are to pray for our leaders because the Lord has given them their positions BUT they are accountable with what they do with it. If they are corrupt and act like a hitler they will be brought down by what ever means the Lord deems as his will. If they do his will in doing right by the people then favor will fall upon that leader and the country as well by the leaders righteous obedience to the Lords will for the country. If not that leader will be awakened to the reality that the Lord is GOD.

  • Adam Majkowski

    Maybe if Iran was not surrounded by american military bases, they would be a little friendlier. Shut those bases down and let those freeloading soldiers get real jobs doing actual work.

  • Adam Majkowski

    Why are we paying for morons to play with drones in another countries back yard? Our country is falling apart and we are supposed to pay for this nonsense?