The Islamic Republic of Iran tried to provoke a confrontation with the USS New Orleans as it sailed through the Straits of Hormuz Monday, head of U.S. Central Command General Joesph Votel told Fox News.
Iran deployed five patrol boats equipped with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers that circled the ship trying to disrupt the New Orleans’ path forward. Votel said unsafe encounters can go sour very quickly if even a minute mistake is made saying.
“What concerns me is our people don’t always have a lot of time to deal with those interactions,” Votel said. The New Orleans carries 700 U.S. Marines, and any confrontation with Iran would spark an epic international incident.
The boats that harassed the New Orleans were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), essentially a paramilitary organization that directly reports to the Ayatollah. The IRGC funds and actively supports terrorists in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq and was tied to hundreds of U.S. deaths during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Iran routinely harasses U.S. ships, with the Navy reporting 300 “incidents” with Iranian vessels in 2015 alone. Free passage and navigation through the Straits of Hormuz is critical to the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf. Approximately 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz and it serves as the only passage from the Persian Gulf to the ocean.
“It’s very common for them to come up to within 300, 500 yards of us, and then they’ll turn, or parallel us and stop,” New Orleans Operations Officer Lt. Forrest Griggs told Fox News. Navy officials elaborated that the IRGC does not professionally operate and that its actions require constant vigilance to avoid an incident.
Iran captured 10 U.S. sailors in January after they drifted into Iranian waters off Farsi Island. Iran illegally seized the sailors and paraded them on Iranian state media, embarrassing the United States. After the incident, the commander in charge of the operation was exited from the U.S. Navy along with dozens of other officers in the chain of command.
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