by Compiled from Wire Services
Mar 09, 2017 12:00 am
A senior official in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards accused the United States of provoking tensions after two separate incidents in the Gulf last week.
"A US Navy ship crossing the Strait of Hormuz changed its international route and approached to within 550 meters of Revolutionary Guards' boats in an unprofessional way," Mehdi Hashemi told the Guard's website Sepahnews. He said actions by the United States and the United Kingdom in recent days showed they have "harmful, illegitimate and provocative objectives." "Not only do they not want stability and security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, but they seek to create tensions and a crisis," he said.The Pentagon on Monday blasted the "unprofessional" behavior of the Iranian navy. It said an Iranian frigate last Thursday came within 150 yards (meters) of the civilian-crewed USNS Invincible. Then on Saturday, a number of small assault craft came within 350 yards of the Invincible and other ships. In both cases, the US ship had to change course to avoid a collision, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Davis accused Iranian forces of "a combination of unsafe or unprofessional behaviour" and warned that such incidents could cause a miscalculation or an accidental provocation. He said Iranian actions in the crowded waters of the Gulf had been improving of late.
The Pentagon has previously voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran. It has accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of conducting risky maneuvers around US vessels, including some where the Americans have had to fire warning shots.
The USNS Invincible is equipped with powerful radar equipment to track ballistic missile trajectories. The prefix "USNS" means the ship belongs to the US Navy but is unarmed or only lightly armed.
Iran's navy routinely holds war games it says are aimed at improving its readiness against threats. It also sends its warships to international waters off the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy.
Iran's navy began an annual drill last week near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, its first major exercise since the inauguration of President Trump. The tension has escalated between the two countries after Iran test-fired a new ballistic missile earlier this month, prompting Washington to impose some new sanctions on Tehran.
The Trump administration ordered sanctions against more than two dozen people and companies from the Persian Gulf to China in retaliation for Iran's recent ballistic missile test, increasing pressure on Tehran without directly undercutting a landmark nuclear deal with the country.
It is Trump's first package of penalties against Iran, reflecting his insistence on a tougher stance toward Tehran. After tightening sanctions against Iran in response to a ballistic missile test, White House officials said the measures were an "initial" step. U.S. Gulf allies have long favored a tougher U.S. stance against Iran, whom they blame for regional interference. Throughout his election campaign, Trump accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran, and he vowed to crack down.