For the second day in a row there was a near confrontation at sea between U.S. Naval vessels and patrol boats operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
On Tuesday, four IRGC patrol craft conducted a “high-speed intercept” of the USS Nitze in waters near the Straits of Hormuz. They harassed the ship in a “unsafe and unprofessional” manner, according to a spokesman. The Nitze gave several verbal and visual warnings, including firing flares. One of the Iranian boats came within 300 yards of the Nitze.
The situation escalated on Wednesday when a lone IRGC boat harassed the USS Squall, a naval patrol craft, and a Kuwaiti naval vessel.
At one point, the Iranian boat came within 200 yards of one of the US Navy boats. When it failed to leave the area after the Navy had fired flares and had a radio conversation with the Iranian crew, the US officials said, the USS Squall fired three warning shots. Following standard maritime procedures, the Navy fired the three shots into the water to ensure the Iranians understood they needed to leave the immediate area.State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said incidents like this one “unnecessarily escalate tensions,” adding that the US doesn’t know Iran’s intentions.
The intercept was another tense incident between the longtime foes over the past year.
In December, as part of a life-fire exercise, Iran’s military fired a rocket near the American aircraft carrier, the USS Harry Truman.
And in January, the IRGC captured 10 American sailors when their two Riverine Command Boats accidentally strayed into waters near Iran-controlled Farsi Island, in the Persian Gulf. The sailors were released soon after.
Later that month, Iran reportedly flew an unarmed drone over a US warship, a move that a US navy official called “abnormal and unprofessional.”
In July, Iranian ships sailed close to USS New Orleans while Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Central Command, was aboard.
Iran is sending a message to America’s allies in the Middle East: the U.S. is impotent and a paper tiger. These incidents are a great source of elation and satisfaction for the Iranians, who believe the U.S. won’t lift a finger against them lest Iran abandons Obama’s precious nuclear treaty.
Anyone who thinks that these incidents are precipitated by rogue elements of the Revolutionary Guards without authorization at the highest levels of the Iranian government are dreaming. This is an operation signed off on by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who directly controls the IRGC. These guys would be executed if they went off on their own.
In short, Iran wants the benefits of winning a war without having to fight one. As long as President Obama is in office, they are likely to continue succeeding.