Iran and US warships in tense first Middle East encounter in a year

Iran and US warships in tense first Middle East encounter in a year

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – US and Iranian warships had a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf earlier this month, the first such incident in about a year amid wider unrest in the region about Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, the US Navy said on Tuesday.

Images released by the Navy showed a ship commanded by Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guards cut off in front of USCGC Monomoy, causing the coastguard ship to abruptly stop with its steaming engine on April 2.

The Guard also did the same with another Coast Guard vessel, USCGC Wrangell, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, Middle East 5th Fleet spokesperson. Such close passages run the risk of ships colliding at sea.

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Iran did not immediately recognize the incident in the southern part of the Persian Gulf, which caused no injuries or damage.

“The American crews issued several bridge-to-bridge radio warnings, five brief explosions from the horns of the ships, and while the [Iranian] Harth 55 responded to radio requests from bridge to bridge, they continued the dangerous maneuvers, ”said Rebarich.

“After about three hours of warning and defensive maneuvering by the United States, the [Iranian] the ships moved away from the American ships and opened the distance between them. “

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

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

The interaction marked the first “dangerous and unprofessional” incident involving the Iranians since April 15, 2020, Rebarich said. However, Iran had largely ended such incidents in 2018 and most of 2019, she said.

In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 cases of what it describes as “dangerous and / or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces. He recorded 35 in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

Incidents at sea almost always involve the Revolutionary Guards, who report only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Typically, these are Iranian speedboats armed with deck-mounted machine guns and rocket launchers that test weapons or observe US aircraft carriers crossing the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf at through which 20% of all oil passes.

Some analysts believe the incidents are in part aimed at squeezing President Hassan Rouhani’s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal. They include a 2016 incident in which Iranian forces captured and detained 10 US sailors overnight. are lost in the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic.

“The US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanders retain the inherent right to act in self-defense,” Rebarich said.

The incident comes as Iran is negotiating with world powers in Vienna over Tehran and Washington to revert to the 2015 nuclear deal, with negotiations set to resume on Tuesday.

It also follows a string of incidents across the Middle East attributed to a shadow war between Iran and Israel, which includes attacks on regional shipping and sabotage of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. .