The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the US Navy and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) maritime vessels nearly came to trade blows earlier this month. Though the announcement hasn’t been verified by the Iranian government still, the timing of the news indicates a far sinister plot behind the scenes.
The Wall Street Journal along with a handful of news outlets have reported that a number of American and Iranian warships have had a tense face off in the Persian Gulf earlier in April. Based on the footage released by the US Navy and provided for the media, it is believed that US coast guard vessel USCGC Monomoy course was brought to an abrupt halt when they ran into an Iranian vessel commandeered by IRGC. In yet another report, USCGC Wrangell belonging to the US Navy’s fifth fleet stationed nearby to secure the sea lanes ran into a similar encounter with IRGC forces. As maintained by the media, both American seafaring vessels were surrounded by three fast-attack boats along with a larger fighter vessel identified as Harth 55 during one of their patrols in the south of the Persian Gulf. Fortunately the incident didn’t escalate further as both parties decided to not to tempt fate and risk further response.
According to the media, this last stand off between Iranian and US forces marks the first reported incident of the kind between the two entities ever since 2018; That is of course not counting the reports about a similar yet unconfirmed confrontation back in April 2020. If we are to consider only such an incident in the scope of maritime interactions, then we need to go back even further, right back to 2016 when an American vessel was captured by IRGC forces and all its personnel were detained for some time. Following the assassination of IRGC top commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani by the hands of US Army and the immediate retaliatory strike by IRGC forces on al-Asad’s airbase things took a different turn, at long last both sides had decided to cool down for a bit, often relying on their proxies to promote their agenda within the region.
What makes this confrontation interesting is the exact date of it. Supposedly the two armies arrayed against one another right on the day President Biden was due to reinitiate the US comeback to 2015 nuclear deal between E3+2 and Iran, more commonly referred to as JCPOA. Biden had previously expressed interest in making the comeback to JCPOA but Iran’s refusal to renegotiate the deal effectively barred the process from moving forward. Eventually, the US government relented after hearing about the Iranian-Chinese strategic partnership, prompting all sides to rejoin the table once again, possibly to avoid the formation of an anti-American coalition. American news outlets however are making use of everything at their disposal to somehow connect the two stories with a new political incident in Iran.
Over the past weekend, a leaked tape containing the recordings of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during a private discussion found its way to the media as well as the internet. Based on what’s been scraped off the tape, Zarif is heard making accusatory remarks concerning the IRGC’s role within the government, alleging that Iran’s foreign policy was in large affected by how the group wanted to conduct its operations within the region. Zarif himself hasn’t been available to provide comments but an investigation is underway to determine the source of the leak. In any case, experts widely believe that the recent announcement about the confrontation between the Americans and IRGC forces down in the Persian Gulf has been specifically designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian officials right amidst the Vienna negotiations. In times past, Iranians proved impervious to this kind of distraction but until further notice, we cannot rule out all possibilities, including yet another breakdown right in Vienna this time around.