Iran’s FM Zarif Defends Hostile I.R.G.C. Encounter with U.S. Navy in Persian Gulf

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Apr 27, 2017
Iran’s FM Zarif Defends Hostile I.R.G.C. Encounter with U.S. Navy in Persian Gulf

American officials on Wednesday that a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer fired a warning flare to deter an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) vessel approaching it in the Persian Gulf. According to Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, the Iranian vessel attempted to keep coming closer to the U.S.S. Mahan although the destroyer had changed course to avoid the escalation. The vessel, which had come within a kilometer of the Mahan, sailed away after the warning. While I.R.G.C. officials have not commented on the incident, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter to react to the encounter: "Breaking: Our Navy operates in — yes, correct — the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. Question is what US Navy doing 7,500 miles from home," he , also attaching a map showing a distance of 7,592 miles between the Persian Gulf and Miami.

Comment: When the U.S. and five other world powers signed the nuclear agreement with Iran in July 2015, it was hoped that the accord would also moderate Iran’s behavior in the region. But on the contrary, the I.R.G.C. has increased its malign activities in the region and has also become more hostile toward U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Navy on 35 “unsafe” encounters with Iranian naval forces last year, compared to 23 in 2015. And there has already been seven such interactions this year so far.

On March 9, Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel told the U.S. Congress that the I.R.G.C. naval forces had increased their “unprofessional, unsafe and abnormal” maritime activities and regularly harassed U.S. ships in the Gulf region. "We have to hold Iran accountable,” he stressed. His comment came just days after the I.R.G.C. had sent fast-attack boats close to the U.S.N.S. Invincible in the Strait of Hormuz, forcing the U.S. ship to change course.

In reaction to Votel’s remarks, Iran's Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan called on Washington to leave the region. “What are the Americans doing in the Persian Gulf? It is better they leave this region and do not create trouble for the regional countries,” he . “Is it acceptable that an armed, insane thief breaks into someone’s house and expects the red carpet to be rolled out for him?”

And on March 21, the George H.W. Bush – a U.S. aircraft carrier – confronted a number of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats approaching a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait of Hormuz. The incident reportedly prompted the U.S. warship to send helicopter gunships to deter Iranians speedboats, some of which had reached as close as half a mile away from the aircraft carrier. U.S. Navy commanders have warned that such Iranian provocations could result in miscalculation and trigger an armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf.

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