London – Iranian authorities were worried on Friday after a drone flew near the office of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
Iran’s anti-aircraft forces extensively fired at the drone as it approached the Pasteur strategic area, where the office of the supreme leader is located.
The drone later appeared to have been operated by a film crew shooting aerial footage for a documentary.
Tehran’s deputy governor general for security affairs, Mohsen Hamedani said the state television crew was filming Friday prayers and “did not know about the prohibited airspace.”
He added: “The drone did not respect the no-fly zone” in central Tehran.
Pasteur Street in central Tehran is highly secured due to the presence of key government institutions there, such as the office of the Iranian President, the center of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence leadership, the center of the Assembly of Experts for the Leadership, and the Supreme National Security Council. The street also includes several military schools and the center of the Armed Forces Logistics.
Iran’s Air Defense Base issued a statement on Friday saying the drone had entered Tehran’s airspace without coordination and permission, Mehr new agency said.
The statement said the drone was shot down by the anti-craft forces in a central district of the capital.
ILNA news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that the drone was shot down as “it approached the no-fly zone” near the office of the supreme leader.
The source later explained that the drone belonged to a documentary-making team that had permission to film but “unintentionally started moving it towards the no-fly zone,” Reuters reported.
The commander of Tehran air defense forces said in August that the capital’s airspace was under full control and “no aircraft can enter it without permission.”
Meanwhile, experts expected on Friday that the U.S. decision to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) would engender a new crisis between Washington and Tehran that could negatively reflect on the Nuclear Deal, already criticized by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
On Dec. 15, U.S. President Barack Obama allowed U.S. sanctions against Iran to be renewed, but have rejected in a surprise move to actually sign the legislation that brings the sanctions into force.
AFP said on Friday that the White House said renewing ISA was pointless since it remains suspended so long as Tehran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear program.
“The US Congress never liked the deal and now that Obama is leaving office, they’re trying to find ways of violating the deal without being too obvious about it,” Foad Izadi, a world politics professor at the University of Tehran told AFP.
Iran also fears that keeping the sanctions would affect Tehran’s economic relations with the rest of the world. Tehran therefore believes that the U.S. Treasury should take more measures to comfort banks that are hesitant in dealing with Iran due to the sanctions.
When the banks ask the U.S. Treasury for guidance, the answers are slow and ambiguous, said Izadi.
“They ask for a green light, and they are given a yellow light, which is not enough.”
Shashank Joshi, from the RUSI think tank in London said, “Iran is showing they’re looking into doing something tough, without actually doing it… that they’re willing to tear up the deal if pushed too far.”