Iranian forces act without Supreme Leader posing ‘greatest threats’ at sea

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The head of the US military‘s central command pinned down a number of ongoing attacks on international tankers on Iran, but argued that operations were being led by lower-level military officials, not the military officials. leaders of the country.

Acts of sabotage against foreign ships carrying petroleum products emerged in the spring of 2019 as US-Iran tensions escalated a year after former President Donald Trump abandoned a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran and major world powers .

No group or country has ever claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took place in the Gulf of Oman, but the United States has accused the Iranian elite of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, of ​​them. orchestrate.

The incidents helped promote the creation of the International Maritime Security Construct, a group led by the United States and now made up of 34 countries.

Speaking at a virtual event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. called the group a “very effective tool for us” to counter threats. at sea, including those posed by the acting Revolutionary Guards. independent of higher command.

“The biggest threat to trade in the region would probably be for the IRGC navy to do something that has not been sanctioned by a higher authority,” McKenzie said, “and I will just say that the activities we typically see in the IRGC navy are not necessarily activities that are led by the Supreme Leader, of the Iranian state, rather irresponsible actions of the local commanders there. “

He said the US military forces involved were “very careful to ensure that we don’t go into a provocative cycle because of it.”

“Luckily our guys are pretty good,” McKenzie added. “Our sailors are very well trained, they are very competent, they are very mature and they are able to defuse these situations, which is what you are always looking to do when you do that.

A Powerpoint slide provided by US Central Command shows the damage caused by an explosion and a suspected limpet mine to the hull of the civilian ship M / V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019, as the US destroyer guided-missile aircraft USS Bainbridge, not shown, approaches the damaged ship.
US Central Command Public Affairs

The Revolutionary Guards are one of two parallel military entities that exist in Iran, the other being the Iranian Army, which also has a naval fleet. The powers of Commander-in-Chief of the country have vested in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while the official post titled Commander-in-Chief has been held by Major General of the Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami since April 2019, a month before the first oil tanker incident in the country. Gulf of Oman.

Iran has always denied responsibility for the attacks.

Revolutionary Guards have occasionally seized ships from other countries accused of violating the rules of maritime navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s largest maritime oil traffic choke point, and attacks against Iranian and Israeli ships in the strategic Red Sea have also emerged amid heightened tensions in the region.

McKenzie’s remarks on Tuesday came a day after the US Navy’s 5th Fleet released footage of what it called “dangerous and unprofessional action” carried out earlier this month by Navy Guardsmen of the revolution when the Harth 55 class boat of the force Shahid Nazeri walked past the US Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Monomoy in the southern part of the Persian Gulf on April 2.

It was the first such incident in about a year, when CENTCOM accused the Revolutionary Guard’s rapid attack vessel of having surrounded its warships in a series of maneuvers that caused threats to the Revolutionary Guards. social media by then-President Donald Trump, as well as a response shared with Newsweek by an Iranian official.

Footage of another incident involving the Revolutionary Guards and U.S. personnel was shared hours after McKenzie’s comments. This time, the 5th Fleet claimed to show that three of the rival fleet’s fast coastal attack craft “quickly approached” the US Navy coastal patrol vessel. USS Firebolt “ and US Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof “at unnecessarily close range with unknown intent” Monday.

The extent to which the Revolutionary Guards act independently of the Iranian government, especially the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, has been a controversial source of debate within the Islamic Republic.

In an unpublished recording previously leaked to the UK-based Iranian media outlet and released earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed there were limits to civilian government constraints on military activities.

“In the Islamic Republic, the military field reigns”, declared at one time the senior Iranian diplomat, affirming “to have sacrificed the diplomacy for the military field rather than for the diplomacy of service on the ground”.

The remarks sparked a backlash in Iran and were played down by government officials, who condemned what they called criminal the unauthorized disclosure of private and unofficial comments intended to harm the country.

“We believe that this document theft is a conspiracy against the government, the system, the integrity of effective national institutions, and also against our national interests,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Tuesday in a statement. press conference.

He said Rouhani ordered an immediate investigation into the alleged plot.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh defended Zarif, whose comments he said were taken out of context.

“This conversation was recorded only to be recorded in the organizational memory of the government and was not intended for publication,” Khatibzadeh said, “and it is not clear by whom and with what goals and intentions it was. selectively published in cyberspace. “

He lamented “the growing political immorality we are witnessing these days” and called for judgment to be reserved until the full conversation is published.

The reaction came shortly after Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a rare denial of statements by a senior Revolutionary Guard official, former Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi, who claimed Iran had offered military training and advisers to support the rebel movement Ansar Allah, or Houthi, currently. engaged in a six-year civil war with a Saudi-backed government in Yemen, a view shared by Washington and Riyadh.

His remarks “are contrary to the reality and to the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Yemen”, according to a statement released Saturday by the Iranian foreign ministry.

“Iran’s support for Yemen is political in nature, and the Islamic Republic supports the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Yemen and the UN efforts to resolve the disastrous war politically,” the ministry said.

The stakes in Iranian politics have escalated as President Joe Biden’s administration continues negotiations to bring the United States back to the nuclear deal just months before the end of Rouhani’s second and final term with elections scheduled for June. Qassemi announced his candidacy on Monday, making him one of the most conservative candidates expressing skepticism about diplomacy with the West as they vie for the presidency.



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