WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy took “dangerous and provocative” actions near U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Six U.S. military vessels were conducting training operations in international waters when 11 Iranian ships “crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” according to a U.S. Navy statement.
At one point, the Iranian ships came within 10 yards of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui’s bow.
The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices to the Iranian ships.
“After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” the statement added.
When asked about the matter on Fox News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was evaluating a response.
“We’ve seen this before, where the Iranians behave in ways that were inconsistent with international law … We’ve talked as a team we’ve talked across the interagency. We’re evaluating how best to respond and how best to communicate our displeasure with what took place,” Pompeo said Wednesday.
The latest revelation represents another brick in the crumbling edifice between Washington and Tehran.
Tensions in the Gulf took an anxious turn earlier this year when the U.S. conducted a deadly strike on Iran’s top military leader. The Jan. 2 strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a key military figure of Iranian and Middle East politics, followed a string of attacks on locations that hosted U.S. and coalition forces, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
On the heels of Soleimani’s death, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops and coalition forces.
A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said speaking from the grand foyer of the White House.
But he suggested that the U.S. is open to negotiations with Tehran. “We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place,” he said on Jan. 8. He then urged other world powers to break away from the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran and work out a new deal.
The tit-for-tat strikes follow what the U.S. called an Iranian attack on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field.
Last summer, the U.S. blamed Iran for the predawn strikes in Saudi Arabia that forced the kingdom to shut down half its production operations. The event triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East. Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks.
In September, Saudi Arabia’s defense ministry said drone and missile debris recovered by investigators shows Iranian culpability. Saudi coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said during a press briefing in Riyadh that all military components retrieved from the oil facilities “point to Iran.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have soared following Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.
The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program and allowed international inspectors into its facilities.
And while Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy has crippled Iran’s economy, slashing its oil exports, Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while sanctions are in place.
Sources from: CNBC
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