Iran has completely halted its “unsafe and unprofessional” harassment of American vessels in the Persian Gulf.
During the final years of the Obama administration, Iranian gunboats regularly harassed U.S. ships, with three dozen such interactions occurring in 2016. During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the number of annual incidents dropped to 14, a decrease of about 60 percent. So far in 2018, there has not been a single case of harassment, the U.S. Navy told Fox News.
The last reported incident was in August 2017, when an Iranian drone came too close for comfort as an F/A-18 Hornet attempted to land on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
The worst incident occurred in January 2016, when the Iranians captured two U.S. Navy riverine patrol boats and 10 sailors.
Trump commented on this issue on the campaign trail, saying, “With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
The first incident of the Trump administration occurred in July 2017. A U.S. Navy warship fired a warning shot at an Iranian gunboat that came within 150 yards of the American vessel.
The Navy publicly acknowledged the changes in Iran’s behavior in March.
“It seems like they’ve absolutely made a conscious decision to give us more space,” Navy Cmdr. William Urban, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told reporters. “That is definitely a change in their behavior.”
Tensions between Washington and Iran have been on the rise since Trump decided in May to not only withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is also known as the Iran nuclear deal, but also target Iran’s revenue streams while putting increased pressure on the regime.
The U.S. is presently pushing countries around the world to cut off all imports of Iranian oil. In response, Iran announced that it would cut off the Strait of Hormuz if America followed through.
“Any hostile attempt by the U.S. will be followed by an exorbitant cost for them,” said Esmail Kowsari, deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran, according to Bloomberg. “If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz.”
Roughly one-third of all oil traded by sea passes through this region.
The Navy said it remains ready to counter whatever threat Iran intends to pose to regional transit.
“The U.S. and its partners provide and promote security and stability in the region,” Urban said. “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”