Posts Tagged ‘Persian Gulf’

US vows to keep oil lanes open after Iran threatens to block key strait

July 5, 2018

IRGC commander says Iran could halt crude going through Strait of Hormuz, after Rouhani warns of ‘consequences’ to US sanctions

 

In this Tuesday, March 21, 2017 photograph, an Omani naval vessel sails alongside the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Strait of Hormuz.  (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

In this Tuesday, March 21, 2017 photograph, an Omani naval vessel sails alongside the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Strait of Hormuz. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The US military on Wednesday reiterated its promise to keep Persian Gulf waterways open to oil tankers, after an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander vowed to disrupt global oil trade if the US prevents Iran from exporting its own oil.

Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, said that American sailors and its regional allies “stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ismail Kowsari on Wednesday appeared to clarify Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s warning of “consequences” if the United States convinces its allies to stop buying Tehran’s oil.

“If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Kowsari said, according to the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website.

General Ismail Kowsari, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Tharallah base, seen on Al-Alam TV on September 27, 2017. (YouTube screenshot/Middle East Media Research Institute)

Rouhani said Tuesday that regional oil supply could be jeopardized if the US continues to pressure Iran.

“It would be meaningless that Iran cannot export its oil while others in the region can. Do this if you can and see the consequences,” he said according to an English-language report of his statements provided by Iran’s Press TV.

When pressured in the past, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world’s oil supply passes.

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Washington has been pushing allies to cut oil imports from the Islamic Republic altogether by November.

The Trump administration vowed Monday to stick with its pressure campaign against Iran, affirming its strategy to change Tehran’s behavior by gutting its oil revenue and isolating the country globally.

“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude-oil sales,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, at a briefing with reporters.

He also suggested, however, that there would be some wiggle room to allow some countries that import Iranian oil to avoid immediate sanctions, once they are set to be re-imposed come November 4.

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis, but as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses,” Hook said, in comments that were seen as a softening of the United States’ prior demands.

Iran is OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter with more than 2 million barrels a day.

Rouhani has asserted that Iran will not buckle under US pressure and urged dialogue to resolve the differences between the nations.

“Iran’s logic has not changed, one party without logic has left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the goal of putting pressure on the Iranian nation,” he said Tuesday.

“We told all our foreign parties that if they speak to the Iranian nation with the language of logic and respect, then we can get problems solved… and that threats, pressure and humiliation will never work against the people of Iran,” he said.

Notable countries that import Iranian crude include Turkey, India, China and South Korea.

Since a US State Department official first told reporters on June 26 that the US was preparing to ask allies to cut their oil imports from Iran, the price of US crude jumped more than 8 percent.

Trump subsequently expressed concern about oil prices last week, announcing in a tweet that he and King Salman of Saudi Arabia had agreed to raise daily oil production by 2 million barrels.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference…Prices to high! He has agreed!

“Prices [too] high!” he said. “He has agreed!” It is not clear when that agreement will begin implementation.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-vows-to-keep-oil-lanes-open-after-iran-threatens-to-block-key-strait/
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Prepared To Stop Hormuz Oil Exports After U.S. Threat

July 5, 2018
Strait of Hormuz is a chokepoint for 30% of global oil exports — U.S. wants Iran’s oil revenue to be zero: Brian Hook

Iran will stop oil exports from the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, if the U.S. succeeds in halting crude sales from the Persian Gulf nation, according to a Revolutionary Guards official.

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“Any hostile attempt by the U.S. will be followed by an exorbitant cost for them,” said Esmail Kowsari, deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran, according to the Young Journalists Club, affiliated with Iran’s national broadcaster. “If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz.”

The Strait of Hormuz is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the world’s biggest concentration of tankers that carry about 30 percent of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids during the year. President Donald Trump decided in May to back out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, with sanctions set to be renewed in November. The U.S. threats come amid rising tensions, pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations who maintain close ties with Trump.

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Esmail Kowsari

Kowsari comments follow remarks by Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, who said Monday that the U.S.’s “goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales.”

The U.S.’s threat recently to prevent Iranian oil exports “called for a swift and smart stance” from Iran, Kowsari said, praising Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reaction on Tuesday who said “it’s an incorrect belief that all oil producers would be able to export and Iran would be the only country unable to export oil.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-05/iran-guards-says-can-stop-hormuz-oil-exports-after-u-s-threat

Europe Is Feeling Trumped

May 22, 2018

No American president has ever been as widely loathed among Europe’s political class as Donald Trump. But the Continent knows it still needs America.

President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, April 27.
President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, April 27. PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTE/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

London

The trans-Atlantic relationship is in trouble. No American president has ever been as widely loathed among Europe’s political class as Donald Trump. And not since the era of Freedom Fries and Axis of Weasels have so many European countries, this time including Britain, been spoiling for a fight with the U.S.

To the Europeans, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal and impose sanctions on European companies that trade with Iran is a profound betrayal. As they see it, the U.S. made a solemn commitment to observe the deal after European countries entered into it in good faith. Harming European commerce with Iran to serve American interests is the act of a bully and an overlord, not of an ally and friend.

The Trump administration’s apparent indifference to European concerns boils the blood of even the most placid of Eurocrats. Europe is now actively looking for ways to inflict pain on the Trump administration in the short term, and in the long term to ensure its increasing independence from the U.S.

From the White House, things look very different. The Iran deal was not a legally binding instrument but the result of President Obama’s overreaching freelance diplomacy—as if Woodrow Wilson, counting the votes against the Treaty of Versailles, unilaterally committed the U.S. to join the League of Nations. The Europeans should have checked the relevant clauses in the American Constitution, assessed the state of congressional sentiment, and realized that Mr. Obama simply lacked the authority, political or constitutional, to commit the country permanently to such an agreement.

For the Trump administration, the Iran decision was not about deserting allies or overruling their wishes. Mr. Trump’s Middle East policies, after all, are quite popular with most of America’s Middle East allies. The Gulf Arabs and Israel felt betrayed by the Obama administration’s pivot to Iran; they are thrilled about the American change of course. The question isn’t whether the U.S. should stand by its allies but whether the Middle East policy preferences of America’s European allies should be imposed on those allies that actually live in the region.

The suggestion that their wishes must be weighed against those of the Gulf Arabs and Israel is humiliating to European policy makers. Most European governments do not regard these postcolonial Arab monarchies and Zionist upstarts as anything near their equals. For a U.S. administration to take that view is a slap in the face.

But preventing a single power from dominating the oil resources and transportation routes around the Persian Gulf has been a central objective of American policy since the Truman administration. Iran is currently the largest, indeed the only, significant threat to these vital interests. The maintenance of the U.S. power upon which America’s European allies rely, the administration believes, depends on blocking Iran’s drive for regional primacy. From this perspective, it seems arrogant of European countries to so casually brush aside the claims of longtime U.S. partners like Israel and the Gulf Arab states, and ridiculous of Europe to demand a veto power over actions the American government believes are necessary to the preservation of the global system.

These strategic arguments cut no ice with Europeans, largely because Europe has lost all faith in the strategic coherence of the Trump administration. Most European policy makers believe the Trump administration is too impulsive and divided to develop a workable Iran strategy. They see its exit from the Iran deal as an irrational and self-defeating outburst of rage, not part of a coherent regional plan. The Trump administration, for its part, thinks Europe’s position is driven more by a short-term hunger for export markets in Iran than by any workable strategy for a stable Middle East.

Despite these troubles, Europe and the U.S. still need each other. Europeans, including Germans, can sound almost Trumpian when they criticize Chinese mercantilism, which they share with the U.S. an interest in countering. The deep economic integration between Europe and the U.S. helps underwrite global prosperity. Intelligence cooperation against jihadist criminals is, if anything, more important to Europe than to the U.S. And a host of external threats, from Russian revanchism to uncontrollable refugee flows in the Middle East and Africa, continue to remind Europe of its need for friendly allies.

The problems in the relationship are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. Mr. Trump will go on being Trumpian, and Europe will go on being European. One important test of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his new job will be whether he can protect essential U.S.-European cooperation from the political turbulence ahead.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-is-feeling-trumped-1526942156

Iran: Commander Threatens To Sink US Ships, Create “Catastrophic Situation” If Trump Kills Deal

April 27, 2018

President Donald Trump offered some of his most bellicose rhetoric yet about Iran on Tuesday when he said Iran would have “bigger problems than they have ever had before” if the country’s leadership dared to restart its nuclear program following a US pull-out of the JCPOA (otherwise known as the Iran deal), per the Times of Israel.

 Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi. (Fars)

And today, a top Iranian general hit back at Trump with an aggressive threat to sink US Navy ships, while warning that the US would find itself in a “catastrophic situation” if it withdraws from the deal and reimposes economic sanctions.

“The actual information that the Americans have about us is much less than what they think they have. When will they figure this out? When it is too late,” the Revolutionary Guard Corps’s navy commander, Admiral Ali Fadavim, told Iranian television on Saturday.

“They will definitely figure it out when their ships are sunk, or when they find themselves in a catastrophic situation,” Fadavi threatened in an interview with IRINN TV, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

On Wednesday, a non-proliferation envoy confirmed that the US isn’t seeking to renegotiate the JCPOA. Instead, the White House would like to pursue a separate agreement like the one French President Emmanuel Macron proposed during a press conference with Trump. And apparently, Macron’s proposal took his European partners by surprise.

Admiral Fadavim’s remarks followed a similarly stern warning from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reiterated over the weekend his warning that Tehran was ready to swiftly resume uranium enrichment if the US ditches the accord.

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned that Iran would consider withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if the US reimposes sanctions.

Of course, by leaving both the Iran deal and the NPT, Iran would only lend credence to its adversaries’ claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build a nuclear weapon – an accusation Iran has long denied. The White House has set a self-imposed deadline of May 12 for deciding whether to pull out of the deal.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-25/iranian-naval-commander-threatens-sink-us-ships-create-catastrophic-situation-if

Times of Israel:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/irans-navy-commander-threatens-to-sink-us-ships/

Gulf Shield-1: 23 countries take part in Gulf military drills in Saudi Arabia

April 1, 2018

The Gulf Shield 1 drill is a turning point in terms of the techniques used in accordance with the most modern military systems in the world.
RIYADH: A massive military exercise to support security, stability and cooperation in the region begins on Sunday when the Joint Gulf Shield-1 drill gets underway after leaders of the participating forces completed the command center exercises.
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“The field exercise lasts for four consecutive days,” said the spokesman for the Joint Gulf Shield 1, Brig. Gen. Al-Subaie, a live-fire exercise involving participating countries’ forces (ground, air, naval, air defense and special forces).
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Al-Subaie said the exercise aims to raise the competencies of the participating forces to face the challenges and threats within a joint operation environment, in order to achieve the concept of joint action, where many modern and sophisticated weapons are used.
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The Gulf Shield 1 drill, organized by the Ministry of Defense in Saudi Arabia, is attended by 23 brotherly countries. Last week, one of the largest military action plans in the world concentrated on field training.
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The Gulf Shield 1 drill is a turning point in terms of the techniques used in accordance with the most modern military systems in the world.
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Tens of thousands of soldiers have arrived in the Kingdom to join the military exercise, which is considered the largest in the region in terms of the number of participating countries and the equipment used.
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Various activities involving joint operational planning, training, demonstrations, seminars on professional topics, and cultural events will be conducted in the harbor phase of the exercise, with the aim of mutually benefiting the participants and generating goodwill.
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Irregular warfare, coastal defense, combat search and rescue, naval warfare exercises and extensive flying operations will also be conducted during the sea phase of the exercise.
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Observers from various participating countries will board Pakistan Navy ships during the sea phase. Warships from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the UAE and US will also participate.
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Pakistan is the leading contributor to Joint Gulf Shield-1, both in terms of personnel and assets, which is reflective of the strong bilateral defense relations between Islamabad and Riyadh.
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According to strategic experts, the month-long military drill in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is important for preparing to address any causes of instability and threats to the region.
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The exercise reflects the conviction of these countries that joint cooperation on the basis of integrated military understanding and coordination, both regionally and globally, is the cornerstone of confronting the threats and dangers that face the world.

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Report: Israeli stealth fighters fly over Iran undetected

March 30, 2018
F35 Adir fighter jet
Two IAF F-35 Adir fighter jets entered Iranian airspace undetected, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
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Two Israeli F-35 fighter jets entered Iranian airspace over the past month, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Thursday. The act is a signal of heightened regional tensions, especially in light of recent Israeli military attacks in Syria, including against Iranian bases in the country.
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Sources quoted in Al-Jarida stated that two stealth fighters flew over Syrian and Iraqi airspace to reach Iran, and even targeted locations in the Iranian cities Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz.

The report states that the two fighter jets, among the most advanced in the world, circled at high altitude above Persian Gulf sites suspected of being associated with the Iranian nuclear program.

It also states that the two jets went undetected by radar, including by the Russian radar system located in Syria. The source refused to confirm if the operation was undertaken in coordination with the US army, which has recently conducted joint exercises with the IDF.

The source added that the seven F-35 fighters in active service in the IAF have conducted a number of missions in Syria and on the Lebanese-Syrian border. He underlined that the fighter jets can travel from Israel to Iran twice without refueling.

Israel has admitted to launching about 100 air strikes on Syria over the past five years, targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapons convoys and infrastructure, and it is believed to be behind dozens more.

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On March 21, the IDF cleared for publication that Israel was behind the 2007 destruction of a nuclear reactor that was under construction in northern Syria.

In February, Israeli F-16 fighter jets entered Syrian airspace, striking 12 Iranian targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone that was shot down over Israel. Two Israeli crew members were wounded when they ejected from their jet before it crashed, which was later determined to be caused by pilot error.

In response to the Iranian drone, a senior Israeli official warned that Israel will react with force to Iran’s efforts to entrench itself further in Syria.

“…the Iranians are determined to continue to establish themselves in Syria, and the next incident is only a matter of time,” he said, warning that Israel does not rule out that that the Islamic Republic will continue to try to attack Israel.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report

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Fugitive Bahrain militants die at sea en route to Iran — Fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran are “lost at sea”

February 22, 2018

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Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Three suspected Bahraini militants wanted on terrorism charges died at sea in unexplained circumstances this month and another is missing, activists said, after they appear to have fled the country by boat headed for Iran.

The incident shines a light on alleged links between a small, armed fringe of Bahrain’s Shi‘ite Muslim opposition and Iran, which authorities in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom accuse of helping stoke years of attacks against its police.

An activist group in their home village called Youth of Karbabad hailed the four men as “holy warriors” in a statement, saying they sought to flee authorities by sea.

“They were martyred…in a sinking in regional waters near Iran on February 7 in hazy circumstances which remain unclear”.

A Bahraini security official, however, denied any involvement by its forces in the incident.

“It’s the latest in a pattern of fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran in coordination with authorities in Tehran and other exiles there,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Map of Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf)

Iranian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and Tehran has denied any support for Bahraini militancy.

Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni monarchy, has cracked down on perceived threats since pro-democracy Arab Spring protests in 2011 led mainly by the island kingdom’s Shi‘ite majority were quashed with help from Gulf Arab neighbors.

It has shut down the main opposition parties, jailed or stripped the citizenship of prominent dissidents and put the top Shi‘ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.

According to Bahraini security dossiers on the men lost at sea reviewed by Reuters, all had been convicted in absentia for attacking police and taking part in riots and were on the run inside Bahrain.

One, Maytham Ali Ibrahim, was wanted for killing a police officer with a fire bomb last April.

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Under pressure from authorities, many activists, clerics and some militants appear have moved to Iran and other countries in recent years.

A militant commander was killed in a Bahraini commando raid last year along with several comrades headed to Iran on a speedboat after they staged a prison break.

Three wanted militants who also took part in the escape did arrive in Iran. They appeared at a lecture in the Iranian holy city of Qom praising their slain fellows, according to a video filmed and distributed by activists.

At a wake held in Qom for the three militants lost at sea on Tuesday, an exiled Bahraini leader mourned their death in a videotaped statement.

“We heard about their departure but they were missing for a long time at sea and the boat was found after three days … from the first moments the Iranian authorities were looking for them,” Sheikh Abdullah al-Duqaq said.

The Iranian coast guard had no role in their deaths, he said. Calls by Reuters to Duqaq’s telephone went unanswered.

Reporting by Noah Browning; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson

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Iraq to build oil refinery in Al-Faw with Chinese companies — seeking investors to build three more

January 29, 2018

Above, a floating oil platform offshore from the southern Iraqi port city of Al-Faw. (AFP)
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BAGHDAD: Iraq plans to build an oil refinery at the port of A-Faw on the Gulf with two Chinese companies, and is seeking investors to build three more, the oil ministry said on its website on Monday.
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The refinery in Al-Faw will have a 300,000 barrel-per-day capacity and include a petrochemical plant, it said.
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Two other refineries, each with a 150,000-bpd capacity, are planned in Nasiriya, southern Iraq, and in the western Anbar province. A third, with a 100,000-bpd capacity, is planned in Qayara, near Mosul, the northern Iraqi city, which was taken back from Daesh militants last year.
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Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia. Its refining capacity was curtailed when Daesh overran its largest oil processing plant in Baiji, north of Baghdad, in 2014.
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Iraqi forces recaptured Baiji in 2015, but the place sustained heavy damage in the fighting. The country now relies on the Doura refinery, in Baghdad, and Shuaiba plant, in the south.
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Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military

January 25, 2018

Tehran halts dangerous encounters in Persian Gulf amid tensions over nuclear deal

Image result for Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military, CETUSNEWS.com

The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.

The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven’t done so for five months, U.S. military officials said.

The officials said they hoped the respite would continue. “I hope it’s because we have messaged our readiness…and that it isn’t tolerable or how professional militaries operate,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week. Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The fast boats, typically armed with .50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers, have come within shooting distance of American naval vessels, encounters that grew routine even though each one presents potential dangers to American vessels transiting through international waters.

In some of the more serious incidents, Iranian crews have directed spotlights at ship and aircraft crews, potentially blinding pilots as they conduct operations, according to U.S. military officials. In one case, an Iranian boat pointed a weapon at an American helicopter flying off a Navy vessel, officials said. In the most serious incidents, U.S. vessels have fired warning shots in return.

The Iranian boats are typically crewed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, U.S. military officials have said. The IRGC is Iran’s elite military unit and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the last two years, officials said.

A video grab from the U.S. Navy shows an Iranian vessel heading toward the USS Thunderbolt in the Persian Gulf in July, 2017.Photo: US NAVY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017.

The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering as President Donald Trump threatens to end U.S. sanctions relief provided to Tehran under the deal, signed under President Barack Obama.

Washington’s European allies are discussing ways of heightening sanctions against Iran for actions not directly related to the country’s nuclear program.

Gen. Votel said that the abatement in the Persian Gulf didn’t alone signal a broader “strategic shift” by Iran, noting activities such as Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I think we have to look at Iran in totality,” Gen. Votel said.

Read More

  • In Common Occurrence, Iranian Boats Veer Close to U.S. Warship
  • Trump to Extend Sanctions Relief to Iran, Keeping Nuclear Deal in Place—For Now
  • Navy Images Show Iranian Boats in Incident Involving Top U.S. General

The U.S. has publicly criticized what it says is Iranian backing of the Houthis. Iran also has sent forces to Syria and backs militants operating there on behalf of the Assad regime.

Military officials noted that while Iranian harassment in the Gulf had declined, the country’s forces weren’t idle. Iran has been observed by the U.S. conducting activities that approach but stop short of what would be considered harassment, a U.S. military official explained.

Officials at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, in Manama, Bahrain, were loathe to guess the reasons behind it.

“We are not going to speculate on the reason for this recent positive trend in interactions, though we hope it will continue in the future,” said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, in Manama, Bahrain.

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said the decrease in harassment is part of a broader pattern by Tehran to refrain from provoking the U.S. and providing fodder for the Trump administration to blame them for regional instability.

“I think they understand the administration’s policy at this stage is to put the spotlight on Iranians and portray them as the source of all evil in the region,” he said. “The Iranians are certainly part of the problem in the region, but they’d like to be portrayed as part of the solution, not just the problem.”

The lull in harassment coincides with an internal directive last summer in which Mr. Vaez said Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council had ordered the IRGC to stand its ground in the region, but not to harass U.S. Navy ships. The council is presided over by President Hassan Rouhani but Mr. Khamenei has the final say.

Capt. Urban said the U.S. Navy hadn’t modified its operations in the region and would continue to operate “wherever international law allows.”

The last incident, in August, occurred when an Iranian drone flew in the vicinity of aircraft conducting night operations on the USS Nimitz.

Capt. Urban expressed concern about Iranians’ use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to harass American vessels.

“Even with the decreased incidents, we remain concerned with the increased number of Iranian UAVs operating in international airspace at night without navigation lights or an active transponder as would be expected according to international norms,” he said. “We continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

The U.S. military currently is participating in a joint exercise called Native Fury with the United Arab Emirates, designed for training in ways to get essential supplies into the Gulf region over land if the Strait of Hormuz was ever blocked, as Iran has threatened to do in the past. Some military experts see Native Fury as a message to Iran.

It is “a demonstration of our resolve,” Gen. Votel said. The Iranians also are conducting a two-day exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/irans-fast-boats-stop-harassing-u-s-navy-baffling-military-1516897301

US Navy says it received Iran broadcast about naval exercise

January 23, 2018

Iranian ships on the Gulf (AFP/File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The US Navy says it only received a radio message from Iranian naval vessels about an ongoing Iranian exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, countering Tehran claims of a tense encounter between the two fleets.

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Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, says an American warship in the Gulf of Oman heard the message on Monday.
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Morgan said on Tuesday that the American vessel “continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission.”
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Iranian media had alleged its navy either “warned off” or fired “warning shots” at Saudi or American vessels during an ongoing two-day annual drill in the strait.
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The US Navy and Iranian forces routinely have tense encounters in the Arabian Gulf.
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