By Alex Lockie
The fast patrol boat USS Firebolt in company with HMS Dragon
In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.
“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation,” Urban added.
The messages Iran wants to send
“In my view, [Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic] Khamenei decided it’s time to send a message: I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group and an expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.
But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.
The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … they’re not gonna walk away from that.”
So Iran seems to be simply spinning its wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there’s a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?
“The concern is miscalculation,” Kupchan said. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.” According to Kupchan and other experts, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.
“Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” Kupchan said.
The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speedboats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.
The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.
“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”
“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.
Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign-policy legacy and Iran with its financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.
Related on Peace and Freedom:
Iran Vessels Harassed U.S. Destroyer Near Persian Gulf, Navy Says (USS Nitze encounter with Iranian boats)
Iran vessels make ‘high speed intercept’ of U.S. ship in Strait of Hormuz — “America is the greatest threat to the Islamic Revolution” — Iran hasn’t changed after the nuclear deal (USS Nitze encounter with Iranian boats)
Tags: Bahrain, Cliff Kupchan, Eurasia Group, harassing ships, Hillary Clinton, Iran, Iran's navy, Iranian, Iranian Navy, Kupchan, Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, ships 'harassed' by Iranian attack craft, Strait of Hormuz, U.S., U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy warships, U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, USS Firebolt, USS Squall