Respite in Iran-US Naval Encounters

Respite in Iran-US Naval EncountersRespite in Iran-US Naval Encounters

There has been a months-long halt in periodic maritime confrontations between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf waters, a development that US officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.

US military officials have claimed Iran’s armed fast boats for at least two years would dart toward the US vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, but have not done so for five months, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The officials said they hoped the respite would continue. “I hope it’s because we have messaged our readiness … and that it isn’t tolerable or how professional militaries operate,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads US Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week.

Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment. US officials under former US president Barack Obama were frequently complaining of what they called unsafe and unprofessional interactions by Iranian maritime forces.

The fast boats, typically armed with .50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers, came within shooting distance of American naval vessels.

Iran has said its forces act within their rights to protect Iranian territorial waters.

In some of the more serious incidents, US Navy ships fired warning shots at Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf as they allegedly closed in on them.

In September 2016, a US F/A-18E Super Hornet jet attempting to land on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf had to maneuver to dodge an Iranian drone, which came within 31 meters.

On his campaign trail in the same month, US President Donald Trump, who has taken a hard line on the Islamic Republic, vowed that any Iranian vessels that “harass” the US Navy in the Persian Gulf would be “shot out of the water”.

The Wall Street Journal report came despite announcement by a senior Iranian naval officer that Iran’s warplanes warned off two “coalition vessels” early on Monday during a military exercise in waters off the country’s southeast. The vessels approached the area to monitor Iranian ships, said Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, spokesman for the drills, according to Tasnim News Agency.

“Iranian drones identified the vessels, then Iranian planes flew over them and gave them a warning. The vessels left the area,” Mousavi said.


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