Iran, U.S. warships in first tense Mideast encounter in a year

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – American and Iranian warships had a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf earlier this month. This was the first such incident in about a year amid major turmoil in the region over Tehran’s ragged nuclear deal, the US Navy said on Tuesday.

Footage released by the Navy showed a ship commanded by Iran’s Paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that was cut in front of the USCGC Monomoy, causing the Coast Guard ship to come to an abrupt halt on April 2 with its engine smoking.

The guard did the same with another Coast Guard ship, the USCGC Wrangell, Cmdr said. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet in the Middle East. Such narrow passes risk the ships colliding at sea.

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Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident in the southern part of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in no injury or damage.

“The US crews issued several warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio, five brief explosions from the ships’ horns and during the [Iranian] Harth 55 answered the radio inquiries from bridge to bridge and continued the unsafe maneuvers, “said Rebarich.

“After about three hours of warning and defensive maneuvers from the US, the [Iranian] Ships maneuvered away from the US ships, opening the gap between them. “

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the incident involving the Iranian Harth support ship and three Iranian rapid attack ships. The Coast Guard units operate out of Bahrain as part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the largest overseas unit.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard ship cuts in front of the US Coast Guard ship USCGC Wrangell in the Persian Gulf on April 2. US Navy / AP file

The interaction was the first “unsafe and unprofessional” incident the Iranians were involved in since April 15, 2020, Rebarich said. However, Iran largely stopped such incidents in 2018 and almost all of 2019, she said.

In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 cases of “unsafe and / or unprofessional” interactions with the Iranian armed forces. It recorded 35 in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

The incidents at sea almost always involve the Revolutionary Guard, which only reports to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As a rule, these are Iranian speedboats armed with machine guns on deck and rocket launchers that fire test weapons or shadow American aircraft carriers that travel through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through which 20 percent of all oil flow.

Some analysts believe the incidents are in part intended to squeeze President Hassan Rouhani’s government after the 2015 nuclear deal. These include an incident in 2016 in which Iranian forces captured and overnight detained 10 US seamen who lost their way into the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic.

“US. The naval forces remain vigilant and trained to act professionally, while our commanders retain the inherent right to defend themselves,” said Rebarich.

The incident occurs when Iran is negotiating with world powers in Vienna over Tehran and Washington, which return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Talks are due to resume on Tuesday.

There also follows a series of incidents in the Middle East stemming from a shadow war between Iran and Israel, including attacks on regional shipping and sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

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