The Iranian government, which captured a U.S. stealth drone in December, has agreed to give the top-secret spy craft back, but with a catch.
Instead of the original RQ-170 Sentinel drone, the Islamic Republic said Tuesday that it will send President Obama a tiny toy replica of the plane.
Iranian state radio said that the toy model will be 1/80th the size of the real thing. Iranian citizens can also buy their own toy copies of the drone, which will be available in stores for the equivalent of $4.
The White House formally requested return of the drone after the Iranians displayed it on state television. The U.S. says that the craft was operating over Eastern Afghanistan.
The Iranians claim they detected the drone well inside Iran’s border and then took control of the craft electronically and brought it down safely. The U.S. has denied that the craft came down for any reason other than technical malfunction.
On Dec. 11, after President Obama said he had requested the return of the drone, an Iranian general said that it was not going to happen. The general also warned on Iranian television of a “bigger response” to the “hostile act” of crossing into Iranian airspace.
“No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country,” Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] Lt. Commander Gen. Hossein Salami said, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “given Iran’s behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply” with Obama’s request. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said he didn’t expect Iran to hand over the drone, but told reporters, “I think it’s important to make that request.”