At a time when Iranian forces are increasingly engaging in dangerous confrontations with U.S. naval vessels, an Iranian admiral called on America to the leave the Persian Gulf, Iran’s semi-official Fars News reported on Wednesday.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy, said that the U.S. should withdraw its fleet from the Persian Gulf, which contains important international shipping lanes, in order to reduce the number of confrontations there. “The Americans’ presence in the Persian Gulf region is the reason for insecurity and they should terminate it; their presence is the root cause of their unprofessional behavior and they should end this issue honorably to prevent any problem,” Fadavi said.
The number of incidents between Iranian and American naval forces approximately doubled since the nuclear deal was implemented in January. A U.S. defense official toldFox News earlier this month that there have been 31 interactions deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” between the U.S. Navy and Iran, which is the same amount for all of 2015. “Each time, Iran was the aggressor,” Navy officials told Fox.
Last month, the American destroyer USS Nitze filmed four Iranian boats approaching it at fast speeds in international waters, with two of the vessels coming within 300 yards, despite the Nitze issuing several radio, whistle, and flare warnings. This “created a dangerous, harassing situation” that was only de-escalated by the Nitze taking defensive maneuvers, an American defense official said.
Fadavi’s call for the U.S. to leave the Gulf was echoed by General Ramezan Sharif, head of the IRGC’s public relations office. “The enemies of the Iranian nation must know that the Persian Gulf is our home, and we will spare no efforts to cooperate with other neighboring countries to strengthen security in this region,” he said on Wednesday, according to Fars.
Sharif later clarified what he meant by “enemies,” saying that Iran would conduct exercises to ensure that its navy is prepared to face “the threats posed by the provocative presence of trans-regional powers, particularly the US warships and their unprofessional moves.”
Fadavi and Sharif’s comments come in the wake of a number of confrontations between U.S. and Iranian vessels. Earlier this month, seven armed IRGC boats swarmed a U.S. Navy patrol ship in the Persian Gulf, forcing it to change course after the Iranians came within 100 yards and stopped their vehicles in the American ship’s path. Last month, two U.S. patrol coastal ships, the USS Tempest and the USS Squall, were operating in international waters in the northern Gulf when IRGC boats approached them at high speed and passed within 600 yards of the Tempest three times. The Iranians ignored several radio warnings to behave according to internationally recognized maritime rules.
These incidents took place just a few months after ten American sailors and their two boats were seized by IRGC naval forces in January, in violation of international law.
In a move that reflects Iran’s growing belligerence toward the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf, a new ship that was launched by the IRGC Navy earlier this week was draped in a banner that read, “America should go to the Bay of Pigs, the Persian Gulf is our house.” Fadavi said at the time, “This ship increases the deterrent power of Iran and will have an effect on the calculations of the enemy, particularly America.”