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Iran Crisis - April 2020

Donald Trump posted a tweet on 01 April 2020. He wrote, "Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq." He added that "if that happens, Iran will pay a heavy price." On April 15, eleven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) while the U.S. vessels were conducting joint integration operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui's bow. The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships' horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN. After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them.

The IRGCN's dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) "rules of the road" or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area.

The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army had been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March. U.S. naval forces continued to remain vigilant and were trained to act in a professional manner, while commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.

IRGCN APril 2020 IRGCN APril 2020 IRGCN APril 2020 IRGCN APril 2020 IRGCN APril 2020

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rebutted in a statement on 19 April 2020, saying the US ships had ignored warnings and conducted unprofessional and provocative actions. But it gave no details. It warned the US that any error in calculation will receive a decisive response. Iran said that the illegal and aggressive American presence in the Persian Gulf was causing insecurity in the region. Tension has risen sharply between the two countries after the US killed a top Iranian commander of the revolutionary guard in January, and Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US forces.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on 19 April 2020 strongly rejected the Pentagon's recent claims about the harassment of the US naval forces by the IRGC boats in the Persian Gulf as a "Hollywood" story, and further warned against the US Navys new unprofessional and dangerous moves in the waterway. In recent weeks, we have witnessed a repetition of the terrorist US Navy's unprofessional behavior in the Persian Gulf threatening security and tranquillity and posing new dangers to the region, a statement by the IRGC Navys Public Relations Office said.

It added that in recent weeks, including on April 6 and April 7, the US warships in a dangerous move blocked the voyage of Iranian ship, Shahid Siavashi, on two separate occasions in the region, but were forced to step back after the IRGC warnings and the professional and smart moves of the Iranian vessel. The statement said that the IRGC Navy has increased its patrolling boats in the Persian Gulf "to stop the US forces' continued illegal, unprofessional, dangerous and even adventurist behavior".

In the same context and after declaring that it is conducting drills in the region and there is a threat of shoorting in the drill zone, a group of IRGC vessels, including 11 boats, on a mission to patrol the drill zone on April 15 confronted the US warships and "despite their unprofessional and provocative measures and disrespect for the warnings, forced them to evacuate the IRGC Navy vessels' sailing path with firm resistance and bravery".

"I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." Trump tweeted 22 April 2020 without citing a specific event or providing any further details. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the tweet itself likely does not change the rules of engagement because the Pentagon requires formal orders rather than "orders from Tweets."

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami dismissed the US claims that Irans vessels have harassed the American warships in the Persian Gulf, blasting Washingtons deployment in the region as illegal. "What leads to insecurity in the Persian Gulf region is actually the illegal and aggressive presence of the Americans who have come from the other end of the world to our borders and make such baseless claims," General Hatami said.

The US military issued a general warning to other nations on 19 May 2020 for vessels to stay at least 100 meters away from US warships, lest they be potentially interpreted as posing a danger to the ship. In a Notice to Mariners, the Pentagon advised "all vessels to maintain a safe distance of at least 100 meters from US naval vessels in international waters/straits. ... Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures". Reuters noted that an unnamed US official said the notice was not a change in the US military's rules of engagement.




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