Never losing an opportunity to poke the U.S. in the nose, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) employed its “fast boats” to harass U.S. Coast Guard operating in the Persian Gulf. These nautical antics by the Iranian naval forces are typical of Iran’s behavior in the region generally. Whether supporting the Houthi militia terrorists in Yemen or firing missiles at Israeli container ships, Iran’s behavior in the Middle East is an oft-reported trend at Liberty Nation.
The latest incident took place on April 2 and was first reported on by The Wall Street Journal. The WSJ’s Gordon Lubold pointed out that “a group of boats from Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed two U.S. Coast Guard ships earlier this month in the Persian Gulf, Navy officials said, the first such incident in a year.”
The April 2 harassing action took place, curiously enough, as Iran is working with the European Union to restart the nuclear talks. Iran hopes it will lead to the lifting of economic sanctions by the U.S. and others.
It seems an odd way to encourage the U.S. to be leaning forward in the talks. However, this may say more about the internal Iran government failures to communicate between the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Foreign Ministry.
In a recent report, Liberty Nation revealed that Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that he “was often kept in the dark about security matters.” The failure to coordinate within the Iranian government between the nuclear negotiators – not a trivial endeavor – and the IRGCN carrying out harassing operations of U.S. naval vessels could be a systemic problem within the Iran government bureaucracy. On the other hand, these apparent confusing signals out of Tehran could be a case of “the right hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.” Nonetheless, the IRGCN persists.
Most recently, on April 26, as Sam LaGrone writing for the United States Naval Institute’s USNI News describes the events,
“At 8 p.m. local time on Monday [April 26, 2021], a trio of fast inshore attack craft belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) quickly approached Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt (PC-10) and U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranoff (WPB-1318), coming within 70 yards of the U.S. vessels operating in international waters, according to a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.”
While the incident was going on, the U.S. crews gave the Iranian craft multiple warnings on bridge-to-bridge radios and loudspeakers. When the Iranian boats did not respond, the crew of the USS Firebolt fired warning shots, and the Iranians departed to a safe distance away from the U.S. ships.
Typical of the harassing maneuvers by the IRGCN, the Iranian attack craft identified as Harth 55 cut across the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Monomoy’s bow in what the Navy called an “unsafe and unprofessional action.”
Again, LaGrone reports that before the early April incident, the last major IRGCN action against U.S. Navy ships was in April of 2020 when “a dozen IRGC fast boats” persistently executed “dangerous and harassing” approaches on U.S. Naval vessels. The U.S. vessels were engaged in joint Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopter exercises in “international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.”
This dust-up in the Persian Gulf is just the latest of many going back to former President Reagan’s administration. In October of 1987, Iran decided to flex its muscles and carried out numerous raids against ships in the Persian Gulf. But it was after Iran elected to carry out a missile strike on a U.S. flagged tanker that the U.S. took decisive action.
Four U.S. Navy destroyers took positions about 6,000 yards from two Iranian oil platforms used for supporting IRGCN attack boats and intelligence gathering in an operation code-named NIMBLE ARCHER. The four destroyers then commenced an “85-minute barrage of 1,000 rounds of 5-inch gunfire,” destroying the platforms.
As Richard Pyle of Associated Press explained in an October 19, 1987 dispatch:
“The White House said gunfire wiped out two platforms at one location, and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said the battle area was the Rostam oil platforms. After some initial confusion, Tehran said the two platforms hit were at the Reshadat, or Rakhsh, field 75 miles east of Qatar and 60 miles from the Iranian coast. Rakhsh and Rostam are about 20 miles apart.”
The NIMBLE ARCHER operation that happened thirty-four years ago is a helpful reminder that there was a time when U.S. presidents responded forcefully when challenged by Iran. We saw this same resolve during former President Trump’s administration. The question now is: What will President Biden do now should similar circumstances be repeated with Iran? Iran’s behavior indeed suggests they could.
When Biden was vice president in 2016, Biden’s boss, former President Obama, apologized to Iran for a minor incursion into Iran territorial waters by a disabled U.S. Navy vessel. The apology showed a real lack of backbone. Will Biden do better? Let’s hope so.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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