Iran Warns U.S. on Naval Activity in the Gulf

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unveiled scores of new and upgraded defensive speedboats with a warning to the U.S.
Iran Warns U.S. on Naval Activity in the Gulf
Iranians pass replica Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp missiles during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Tehran, Iran. (Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) --

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unveiled scores of new and upgraded defensive speedboats with a warning to the U.S. that it won’t shy away from challenging American naval power.

“Today we announce that wherever the Americans are, we’re right there beside you, and in the near future you will sense us even more,” IRGC Navy Commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said on the sidelines of a ceremony in the Persian Gulf, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Thursday.

While battling sanctions and a major coronavirus outbreak, Iran appears determined to keep striking a defiant tone as tensions with the U.S. simmer. A month ago, President Donald Trump ordered the navy to destroy any Iranian vessels harassing U.S. ships, after accusations that the IRGC’s craft dangerously approached American military vessels in what U.S. Central Command said were international waters.

It’s not clear if all the vessels shown at the ceremony were new or how many had been refurbished. The IRGC received a number of Ashoura and Zulfaghar-class vessels -- the same models unveiled Thursday -- from the Defense Ministry in March 2016, state TV reported at the time.

Earlier this month, Iran’s regular navy lost 19 sailors in a friendly fire incident involving its own ships during a military exercise in the Gulf of Oman. The Guard is also building a new vessel that will be named after General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in January, according to Tangsiri.

Hostilities between Iran and the U.S. have spiraled after Washington exited the multiparty 2015 nuclear deal that aimed to rejuvenate the Iranian economy and renewed sanctions on the country’s oil exports. It also designated the IRGC -- the largest branch of Iran’s armed forces -- a terrorist organization. Tensions almost spilled over into outright conflict after the U.S. killed Soleimani.

The Trump administration says it wants Iran to agree to a tougher deal on the Islamic Republic’s atomic program, and to roll back its military reach in the Middle East, including through groups like Hezbollah. Iran says it won’t negotiate until the U.S. returns to the original accord.

In its latest step, the U.S. on Wednesday ended sanctions waivers that allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to work at Iranian civilian nuclear sites.

“The Islamic Republic Iran will not back down nor will we bow before any enemy,” General Hossein Salami, commander of the IRGC, said in a speech broadcast on state TV. “Defense is our logic in war, but that defense does not mean passivity. Our operations and tactics are offensive and we’ve shown this in the field.”

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