On April 16, 2020, fast attack craft from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) attempted to interdict the movement of US vessels in the northern Persian Gulf. In a press release last night, the Department of State called the moves highly, "dangerous and provocative."
According to the US statement, the Iranian vessels approached the US ships during a joint exercise between the United States Coast Guard, Army, and Navy in international waters. Despite hailing the IRGCN multiple times over radio, issuing blasts from the ships' horns, and utilizing long-range acoustic noise maker devices, the US was not able to communicate with the Iranians as the incident was occurring. Below, video footage shows the scene from the perspective of the Coast Guard Cutter Maui and USS Lewis B. Puller, an Expeditionary mobile base vessel.
In late 2019, the Iranians seized a oil-tanker from the United Kingdom in response to the British seizure of an Iranian tanker at Gibraltar. Tensions flared, with the United Kingdom and United States on one side, and the Iranians on the other. Both tankers were eventually released, but the mistrust remained. Since that fateful event, the United States has charged the IRGC with carrying out sabotage of six oil-tankers in the Gulf of Oman, launching strikes against two Saudi oil facilities, and supporting its proxies actions against US interests and assets in the Middle East.
In January of 2020, tensions between both sides came to a head when the United States conducted a targeted drone strike against Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was reportedly responsible for managing Iranian proxies and clandestine operations across the globe. Iran, in response, launched missiles and rockets at Iraqi military bases hosting American ground forces.
Most likely, the incident is simply another way for the Iranians to annoy the United States, as such disturbances are not unusual. However, if the action was the start of a larger Iranian harassment campaign, the United States has several naval assets in the region that could be wielded with great effectiveness.
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), carrying the 26th Marine Expeditionary, entered the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz on February 12, 2020. Composed of the USS Bataan (LHD-5), USS New York (LPD-21), and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), the ARG is a potent tool, especially with its AV-8B Harrier IIs, air combat element, ground combat element, and logistics combat element.
The USS Eisenhower is patrolling the waters of the North Arabian Sea, with several guided missile cruisers and guided missile destroyers serving as escorts. The Carrier Strike Group represents a principle element of US power projection in the region, with this single carrier and its ninety aircraft able to rival all the combat aircraft Iran currently posses.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.