Iran claimed Sunday that its warships had “shooed away” American and French military forces in the Gulf of Aden.
US and French “reconnaissance planes, helicopters and warships approached the Iranian warships in a provocative move” on Saturday night, the semi-official FARS news agency reported. “The vessels and aircraft then received a warning from Iranian Destroyer ‘Alborz,’ apologized and rapidly changed direction.”
The agency said the same thing happened last Monday, when “a US warship and military planes changed their direction as they were patrolling in the Gulf of Aden after they came close to an Iranian naval fleet and were warned to move away.”
The report said the Iranian Navy’s 34th fleet, comprising the Alborz destroyer and Bushehr helicopter-carrier warship, is conducting three months of “anti-piracy patrols” in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It quoted the flotilla’s commander, Mostafa Tajeddini, saying, “Checking foreign warships in the international waters and surveillance of potential threats to Iran’s national interests is our essential responsibility.”
The report came amid a spate of belligerent anti-US rhetoric by Iranian leaders and military chiefs, and as US President Barack Obama seeks to reassure Gulf leaders unnerved by the emerging US-backed nuclear deal with Iran. Obama is holding a summit at Camp David on Thursday with Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Two top Iranian generals on Thursday had taunted the United States, saying the much-discussed military option to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities is “ridiculous,” that Washington knows it can’t be done, and that their country “welcomes war with the US.”
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in an interview on state-run television that a battle with the US would only serve to highlight Iran’s strengths.
“We welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power,” he said, according to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency. “We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal.”
Salami threatened that Iran would strike any airbase used as a launchpad for a strike on his country.
“We warn their pilots that their first flight [to attack Iran] will be their last one and no one will be allowed to go back safe and sound,” he warned.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, gave a similarly belligerent warning during a ceremony in the city of Semnan, in the north of the country. Jafari reasoned that if the West really thought it could attack Iran at will, it would have done so already; instead world powers “kneel” before Iranian might, he boasted.
“The military option that the Westerners speak of constantly is ridiculous and they know that if the military option could have produced any result, they would have already used it many times, and today they have shifted their focus to other types of threats and to the soft war front,” Jafri said.
“Today, the Islamic Iran’s pride and might has made the world’s biggest materialistic and military powers kneel down before the Islamic Republic,” he proclaimed.
Iranian officials have recently ramped up their war of rhetoric in what local media said is a response to threats by US officials to bomb their country.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei bragged Wednesday that the US “can’t do a damn thing” to harm his country’s nuclear facilities.
Negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — are scheduled to resume on May 12 in Vienna, the European Union and Tehran said last week. The political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations are to join the talks on May 15.
Iran and the world powers want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.
Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have harshly criticized the framework agreement, saying it paves the way to Iranian nuclear weapons.
AFP contributed to this report.