The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) released footage Thursday of Iranian forces allegedly confronting American naval forces in the Strait of Hormuz.
The action came as American warships entered the Persian Gulf gateway for the first time in two years, responding to Tehran’s seizures and harassment of oil tankers.
“The Islamic Republic has released such footage before for domestic propaganda purposes. It wants to show that it has the capacity to challenge the U.S. as advanced American naval assets enter the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility,” explained Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).
“Tehran does not want a war with the U.S. as it will lose, but it can miscalculate its way into one by continuing to push the envelope in the maritime sector,” Brodsky told The Foreign Desk.
“Your helicopter is in the vicinity of my vessels, sometimes going into Iranian territorial waters,” Iran forces told the American warship. “Advised to take them on your boat and do not enter Iranian territorial waters. If you do not obey my orders, we will open fire on your helicopters, over,” Iran forces threatened the American warship.
In the video released by Tehran, IRGC speed boats were trailing the USS Bataan, which had thousands of Marines as part of reinforcements to the area. Despite U.S. vessels stating that it was “engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law,” the helicopters returned to their ship.
The USS Bataan, the USS Carter Hall, and troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were sent to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) on the instructions of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Through these actions, the U.S. is demonstrating a commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and deterring Iranian destabilization activities in the region,” the U.S. Department of Defense said following the announcement of new troop deployment.
The tensions between Tehran and Washington comes as the Islamic Republic continues to harass Israeli and Saudi commercial ships in the Persian Gulf, despite denying such actions. In response to the threats, the U.S. has deployed more naval reinforcements and marine troops to protect American interests in the Gulf.
“Perhaps the White House will write off the incident as Iranian bluster, but it is much more. Iran has never been so confident,” said Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.
“It has lost its fear of the U.S. It believes it can act with impunity,” Rubin told The Foreign Desk. “That arrogance and distortion of reality apply not only at the top but trickles down through the Revolutionary Guards,” he added.
In addition to the U.S.-IRGC confrontation over the weekend, the Suez Rajan, an American-owned oil tanker long suspected of carrying sanctioned Iranian oil, began offloading its cargo to the MR Euphrates off the Texas coast late Saturday.
According to reports, the seizure of the Suez Rajan led Iran to seize two tankers, leading the U.S. to increase its presence in the waterway and consider placing troops on commercial vessels.
Rubin notes that “if Iranian generals believe they can strike at Americans with no consequence, eventually they will.”
“Biden’s restraint does not enable peace; rather it guarantees escalation. The question now is whether Biden’s team will recognize they must push back on Iran before Americans come home in body bags,” Rubin told The Foreign Desk.
According to experts, the regime currently feels emboldened in attacking American forces, given that the administration continues its overtures of diplomacy to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program and engage in hostage-transfer.
Earlier this month, IRGC Chief General Hossein Salami said that regional countries of the Persian Gulf are “able to maintain the security of the Persian Gulf on their own.” He added that there was “absolutely no need for the presence of America or its European or non-European allies in the region.”