Iran tells US Navy: Go to the Bay of Pigs; the Persian Gulf is ours

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( – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy has a message for the U.S. Navy: Go to the Bay of Pigs; the Persian Gulf is our home.

A banner bearing words to that effect was draped on the side of a new, Iranian-built warship unveiled in the port of Bushehr on Tuesday, at a time when the Pentagon has reported a jump in the number of Iranian provocations in one of the world’s most important waterways.

The new 55-meter-long vessel was launched to great fanfare, with IRGC Navy commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi claiming capabilities including a speed of up to 28 knots and an operating range of 10,000 kilometers.

Fadavi said the ship, which was built and equipped entirely indigenously, could carry a helicopter and up to 100 personnel. (By way of comparison, the U.S. Navy’s Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship, several of which have been harassed by the IRGC in the Gulf this year, is also 55 meters in length but has fewer than 30 crew members.)

“This ship increases the deterrent power of Iran and will have an effect on the calculations of the enemy – particularly America,” Iranian media quoted Fadavi as saying.

“There is no reason for the presence of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf and we have always regarded and will regard it as a factor behind insecurity and evil acts,” he said, adding that the U.S. must leave the waterway.

The IRGC’s second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Hussein Salami, said the IRGC Navy was determined to confront Iran’s enemies as long as they hatch plots against Iran and against Muslims.

The new ship was named Shahid [martyr] Mohammad Nazeri, after the commander of the IRGC Navy special forces unit, who was killed in May in hazy circumstances, with some Iranian reports said he died from exposure to “chemical substances.”

The “Bay of Pigs” reference on the banner derives from a taunting speech by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last May, after a resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives warning that Iranian military activities were undermining stability in the Persian Gulf.

“The Persian Gulf is our home,” Khamenei said at the time. “It is the Americans who must explain why they have come here from the other side of the world to launch war games.”

“They come here from the other side of the world to perform a military exercise? Well, look the other way, towards the Bay of Pigs,” he said.

In case the reference was lost on anyone, an official Khamenei website explained that the supreme leader was being “ironic.”

“It indicates U.S. military weakness that stems from their failed operation in the ‘Bay of Pigs’ in Cuba,” the website added, citing the failed U.S.-backed invasion by anti-Castro exiles in 1961.

The resolution Khamenei was responding to, introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), cited the detention in the Gulf last January of 10 U.S. Navy sailors and two small patrol vessels, as well as subsequent incidents of Iranian warplanes flying in close proximity to U.S. Navy ships.

Since then, the number of incidents in the area has increased sharply.

“Since January 2016, surface elements from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) have harassed U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf thirty times, 50 percent more than during the same period last year,” U.S. Navy Commander Jeremy Vaughan wrote in an article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy this week.

“In each case, the Iranian vessel or vessels approached within weapons range. On at least three occasions, they closed to a distance that could make a collision more likely or could render U.S. ships nearly defenseless to a boat packed with explosive charges,” Vaughan said.

Last Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said seven IRGC fast-attack boats had approached the USS Firebolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship operating in international waters, in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner. The Iranian boats had their machine guns uncovered and manned, although not trained on the U.S. vessel.

Earlier incidents included one late last month in which a Iranian vessel approached two U.S. Navy ships. Crew on the USS Squall, also a Cyclone-class patrol ship, fired three warning shots into the water.

U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Joe Votel, said during a Pentagon press briefing a few days later that the main concern about the Iranian provocations was “miscalculation.”

“I am concerned about rogue commanders, rogue Iranian Quds force naval commanders who are operating in a provocative manner and are trying to test us,” he said.

Votel said that in each case the U.S. sailors involved “have made very, very good decisions, but ultimately if they continue to test us we’re going to respond and we’re going to protect ourselves and our partners.”

— Written by Patrick Goodenough