Iran’s IRGC Navy harassed US ships in Strait of Hormuz, US says

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A patrol boat belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took “unsafe and unprofessional” motion by crossing into the trail of two US Navy ships as they transited the Strait of Hormuz after darkish on Monday evening, the US army stated on Tuesday.

The IRGC Navy patrol boat “attempted to blind the bridge by shining a spotlight and crossed within 150 yards of the US ships — dangerously close, particularly at night,” US Central Command stated in a assertion.

The shut encounter concerned the guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans and the ocean base platform ship, USS Lewis B. Puller.

The US ships “safely de-escalated the situation through the employment of audible warnings and non-lethal lasers,” CENTCOM stated. “US Navy ships continued their transits without incident.

“The IRGC [Navy’s] actions violated international standards of professional and safe maritime behavior, increasing the risk of miscalculation and collision,” the command stated.

Why it issues: Monday’s run-in is the most recent between US and Iranian naval forces within the waters of the Gulf amid a relative lull in such incidents over the previous 12 months.

It follows the USS Lewis B. Puller’s seizure of some 50 tons of ammunition and rocket propellant smuggled on board a fishing vessel sure for Yemen within the Gulf of Oman late final week.

Crew members of the Puller uncovered greater than 1 million rounds of seven.62mm small arms ammunition, 25,000 12.7mm heavy machine gun ammunition, some 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets and greater than 2,100 kilograms (4,630 lb) of propellant used to launch shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), the Navy’s Fifth Fleet stated in a assertion on Saturday.

The commander of all US Navy forces within the Middle East, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, stated Iran was behind the cargo.

“This significant interdiction clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilizing behavior continues,” Cooper stated in a press launch Saturday.

Fifth Fleet spokesperson Cdr. Tim Hawkins instructed Al-Monitor on Monday the fishing trawler was interdicted alongside a route “historically used to unlawfully traffic weapons to the Houthis.”

What’s subsequent: This is unlikely to be the final run-in between Iran’s naval forces and US ships within the area as Fifth Fleet doubles down on efforts to interdict Iranian smuggling efforts.

Last month, US ships seized a fishing boat that had departed Iran with greater than 170 tons of urea fertilizer and aluminum perchlorate sure for Yemen. The latter substance was sufficient to make gasoline for greater than a dozen ballistic missiles, Vice Adm. Cooper stated on the time.

The Houthis have repeatedly focused Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles, drones and exploding boats lately in response to the Riyadh-led warfare effort in opposition to their forces in Yemen. Iran denies it offers arms to the Houthi rebels, however US officers say Tehran continues to take action in violation of the 2015 arms embargo on Yemen. 

The move of Iranian projectile weapons to the Houthis and different militias within the area has added to pressure in Washington’s strategic ties with Arab Gulf states, whose leaders have requested higher US safety from such assaults – one thing the Pentagon has been hard-pressed to offer lately.

Cooper reiterated to reporters on the Pentagon in October that Iran stays the highest topic of the US army’s issues within the area, however stated the speed of encounters at sea have been “steady.”

“We interact with them every day. Nearly all [interactions] are safe and professional,” Cooper stated on the time.

“We’re very focused on Iran and their capabilities,” Cooper stated, including, “We watch them every single day.”

CENTCOM spokesperson Col. Joe Buccino stated Monday’s incident was “indicative of Iran’s destabilizing activity across the Middle East.”

Know extra: The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet has been stepping up efforts to use unmanned sea drones to watch the waterways of the Middle East. Both Iran’s common Navy and the IRGC Navy have taken discover.

The two forces tried to seize US Navy Saildrones within the Red Sea and Persian Gulf in August and September, respectively, in an effort that Fifth Fleet commander Cooper described as “clearly coordinated.”

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