US Navy officials have revealed to The Wall Street Journal that a pair of Coast Guard ships were recently "swarmed" by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fast boats in the Persian Gulf earlier this month as they conducted patrols in international waters.
The report says "The incident occurred April 2, just as the U.S. and Iran announced they would conduct negotiations toward renewing the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord." It was considered by the Pentagon to be a major incident (unlike the more frequent, minor exchange of "warnings" between rival military vessels in the region) given the IRGC boats encircled and "buzzed" the US vessels for up to three hours.
A US Navy spokesperson condemned the "unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers" and underscored the Iranian side failed to back off after multiple radio warning attempts communicated.
It's rare that such an incident occurred with US Coast Guard ships... naturally we wonder what United States Coast Guard ships were doing so far away from... the US coast.
The US Navy apparently provided a photo of the incident in progress...
Did anyone else just assume the U.S. Coast Guard only guards the coastline of the United States? https://t.co/qMb6lDsCka— Esfandyar Batmanghelidj (@yarbatman) April 26, 2021
The incident is recounted in further detail by the WSJ as follows:
U.S. Navy officials confirmed that three fast attack crafts and one ship known as Harth 55, a 180-foot, twin-hulled support vessel, swarmed the two Coast Guard ships while they were patrolling international waters in the southern portion of the Persian Gulf.
The larger vessel repeatedly crossed in front of the bows of the two U.S. vessels, the Monomoy and the Wrangell, coming as close as 70 yards away, officials said. That forced the Wrangell to have to make defensive maneuvers to avoid collision, Navy officials said.
The Harth 55 is perhaps the most distinctive somewhat recent addition to Iran's Navy, considered a high-speed vessel capable of carrying a helicopter and up to 100 troops.
The timing of the public disclosure of this "new" swarming event revelation is interesting given it comes a day after leaked audio of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif surfaced. In it he candidly admits that the IRGC often overrides government decisions, even suggesting the late IRGC Quds Force chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani tried to sabotage Iran's seeking to restore the JCPOA nuclear deal.
Could the IRGC's April 2 swarming event in the Gulf (just as the Vienna talks were about to get started) have been part of an attempt of hardliners leading the military establishment to derail attempts of 'moderates' at engagement with the US?