Iran, U.S. Warships in First Tense Mideast Encounter in a Year

28 Avril, 2021, 11:06 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Coast Guardsmen aboard U.S Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy wave good-bye to the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam after the first underway fuel replenishment between a U.S. Navy cruiser and a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter

Boats from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed US Coast Guard ships earlier this month in the Persian Gulf, the first such altercation in a year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees U.S. Naval operations in the Middle East.

The Iranian ships kept operating close to the United States vessels despite repeated bridge-to-bridge warnings and the use of loud-hailer devices.

"After approximately three hours of the US issuing warnings and conducting defensive maneuvers, the IRGCN vessels maneuvered away from the USA ships and opened the distance between them", according to he Navy.

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

The IRGCN's actions increased the risk of miscalculation and/or collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) "rules of the road" or internationally recognized maritime customs.

The IRGCN armed speed boats rapidly approached U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) and U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) to an unnecessarily close range with unknown intent, including a closest point of approach (CPA) of 68 yards to both U.S. ships.

The incident marks the second time this month that ships from the IRGC Navy have harassed U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf.

"The Harth 55 closed aggressively on Wrangell's bow, resulting in Wrangell manoeuvring to avoid collision while sounding five short blasts from the ship's horn", Commander Rebarich said of the April 2 incident.

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In that encounter, the Iranian ships harassed the Coast Guard cutters for about three hours, Commander Rebarich said, during which the U.S. ships issued bridge-to-bridge warnings and sounded five short blasts from the ships' horns.

U.S. Coast Guard ships have operated in the Persian Gulf since 2003 and fall under the control of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's Task Force 55. However, Iran had largely stopped such incidents in 2018 and almost in the entirety of 2019, she said.

In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 instances of what it describes as "unsafe and or unprofessional" interactions with Iranians forces.

The incidents at sea nearly always involve the Revolutionary Guard, which reports only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured in April 2020).

Some analysts believe the incidents are meant in part to squeeze President Hassan Rouhani's administration after the 2015 nuclear deal.

The confrontations came amid talks in Vienna between Iran and major powers on the mechanics of a USA return to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by then president Donald Trump.

'After approximately three hours of the USA issuing warning and conducting defensive maneuvers, the (Iranian) vessels maneuvered away from the US ships and opened distance between them'. It also follows a series of incidents across the Mideast attributed to a shadow war between Iran and Israel, which includes attacks on regional shipping and sabotage at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.

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