“We have the right to question any vessels entering the Straits of Hormuz and Iranian territorial waters,” naval commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said the Persian Gulf belongs to Iran, saying that Iran has “the right to question any vessels entering the Straits of Hormuz and Iranian territorial waters.” The statement is the latest in a series of Iranian threats to neighboring countries of the Persian Gulf after six months of tensions in which Iran downed a US drone, attacked six ships and seized one UK-flagged ship in the sensitive waterway.
Tangsiri’s statement is part of the IRGC’s increasing attempts to harass or provoke the US and allies. “The IRGC navy controls and monitors the foreign vessels which enter the Persian Gulf and questions them about their nationality, type of vessel and their destination,” said the Iranian commander. He claimed the US has always responded to these requests. Iran hosted Oman’s foreign minister recently and sought to reduce tensions with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Iran wants to push its own initiative called Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) in the Gulf. It also says that it wants a joint naval drill with Russia and China.
Iran’s mixed statements about peace and also “control” are a way to send a message to the US and Western navies. For instance the US has sought to lead a maritime security initiative in the Gulf and France has pushed its own European role. Denmark and Holland appear ready to work with France, which has a naval base in the UAE. The US has a naval base in Bahrain. Since August the UK and US have also worked increasingly closely in the Gulf. In July, the UK seized an Iranian tanker and Iran seized a British tanker. Iran wants to claim that its navy can do what it wants, even escort US ships, in the Gulf.
Iran’s IRGC naval commander says the Gulf covers 250,000 square kilometers and that it opposes nuclear-powered vessels entering the Gulf, including submarines. He says foreign states are also adding to “insecurity” in the Gulf. Iran says that the seven countries, called “7+1 in Irania parlance” around the Gulf should be the ones to “establish sustainable security in the region.” That would apparently mean Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Iran and Oman. Tasnim and Fars News both reported the admiral’s comments.
Iran says that it will hold a “large-scale naval exercise” in the Gulf that will include a “massive naval war game.” Iran will show off its latest gadgets, although the Iranian navy is not very large and is no match for major Western navies. However, its use of IRGC fast-boats has been successful at harassing large ships of other powers. In March 2018 Iranian IRGC boats harassed the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier and in October 2018, boats harassed the USS Essex, part of the US Amphibious Ready Group. In the summer of 2019 the US increased its naval presence in the Gulf, sending the US destroyer Mason to join the USS Bainbridge. The USS Abraham Lincoln remains near the Gulf with the USS Leyte Gulf. US Central Command said the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Leyte Gulf were in the Arabian Sea on December 10.