By Adam Levine
Despite President Obama asking, it is hardly surprising that Iran is not rushing to return the downed U.S. drone.
On Monday, in the first open admission by an American official that the drone on Iranian television was indeed the U.S. drone, President Obama said a request to return the drone had been made.
"We've asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," Obama said.
Well, the response appears to be, unsurprisingly, 'thanks, but no thanks.'
Iran is making the most of the capture, judging from comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who spoke to Venezuelan state television on Tuesday.
"The North Americans at best have decided to give us this spy plane," Ahmadinejad said. "In the unpiloted planes, we have had many advances, much progress and now we have this spy plane."
Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said the drone no longer belongs to Washington.
"The U.S. spy plane is among the assets of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Vahidi told reporters Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. "Our country will decide what to do with it."
The United States owes Iran an apology and needs to admit its crime, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday, the Iranian Students' News Agency report.
"The U.S. should know that what it did regarding violation of our air space can put international peace and security in danger," he said. "The U.S. should take responsibility for the consequences of the measure."
But the big question is whether the Iranians can benefit beyond propoganda and actually gain technologically from reverse engineering the drone.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did not seem convinced they would be able to but he was not ruling it out.
"It’s a little difficult to know just frankly how much they are going to be able to get from having obtained those parts. I don’t know the condition of those parts, I don’t know exactly what state they’re in," Panetta told reporters traveling with him en route to Djibouti. "So it’s a little difficult to tell what they are going to be able to derive from what they have bene able to get.”
Panetta said that while nobody expected the drone would be returned, the U.S. had to ask.
"Obviously our request for the return of the drone is an appropriate request that they give it back to us. I don’t expect that that will happen, but I think it’s important to make that request," Panetta said.