Iran Focus

London, 24 Mar - Iran is jeopardising international navigation by acting aggressively say US Navy commanders. They say that warships are being harassed by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

They also warn that instances of aggression could lead to an armed clash due to a miscalculation of the situation.

On Tuesday, two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats got close to a flotilla of five vessels (including a French destroyer and a Danish frigate) led by the US as it was approaching the Strait of Hormuz. The US aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush intervened for the first time since Trump took office at the beginning of the year.

The incident ended without gunfire, but the George H.W. Bush (which was on its way to the northern Gulf area to join in on strikes against IS militants in Syria and Iraq) did have to send helicopter gunships to the Iranian speedboats.

Since Donald Trump was elected President, tension has been rising between Iran and the United States. Trump has not been shy with his opinions about the “disastrous” 2015 nuclear deal that President Obama struck with the Islamic Republic and has named Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The commander of the Carrier Strike Group 2 - Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell – said: “What I don't like about that is they (Iranian boats) were in the middle of international transit waters (while) we had a right to be there as we were exercising freedom of navigation on our way into the Arabian Gulf. They also had weapons uncovered as some of the cameras were able to tell. They had some of the weapons manned. We also have aerial data that they were arming all of these weapons.”

He said that Iran falsely claimed the flotilla has breached its territorial waters. There has however been no official statement from Tehran.

This type of aggression is reminiscent of an incident that happened at the beginning of the month when Iran accused a US Navy ship of changing course and approaching Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. The country’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said that these actions were “unprofessional” and could lead to “irreversible consequences”.

What really happened, according to a US official, was that IRGC vessels aggressively approached a US tracking ship, the USNS Invincible, giving it no choice but to change direction.

In January, a US Navy ship has to fire several warning shots after Iranian fast-attack vessels refused to listen to numerous requests to slow down.