The Iranian navy is claiming to have chased off a US warship and several American aircraft, in the latest aggressive move by the Islamic Republic’s military.
According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, 2 US reconnaissance planes and US Navy destroyer DDG81 “rapidly changed direction” on Monday, after being confronted by an Iranian fleet in the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen.
The Iranian Destroyer “Alborz”, part of Iran’s 34th fleet, sent a warning to the US vessels telling them to turn around after the Americans strayed into the “5-mile standard distance” from the Iranian fleet, Fars claimed.
“Checking foreign warships in the international waters and surveilling potential threats to Iran’s national interests is our essential responsibility,” the commander of the 34th flotilla of warships, Commodore Mostafa Tajeddini, said on Tuesday.
The Iranian 34th fleet is conducting an “anti-piracy” patrol off the coast of Yemen, according to Tehran.
But the US and others claim Iran is using its military assets in the region to back Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the US Navy has been deployed off the coast of the war-torn country to prevent the transfer of weapons from Iran to the Houthis.
However, Iran denies claims its operations in the region have been altered at all by the US deployment.
“The news report by the foreign media that we have changed our route after the US fleet’s arrival is only a media ballyhoo,” Tajeddini said.
“We have had communications with many naval units since we entered the Gulf of Aden, but no country has ever dared to warn the Iranian Navy,” he added.
The incident is just the latest aggressive move by the Iranian navy, which triggered an international crisis after seizing a Martial Islands-flagged ship, the MV Maersk Tigris, last week.
Iranian state media reported Wednesday that Iran has now threatened to sell the captured ship, if its owners refuse to pay a hefty fine – despite it having been seized in international waters.
In a recent video, a senior Iranian military commander vowed that Iran’s hostility towards the US would continue regardless of any nuclear deal, until America becomes an “Islamic Republic.”