Warning shots were fired this Wednesday when an Iranian ship sailed within 200 yards of the USS Squall. The USS Nitze was harassed the previous day, firing flares and sounding the ship’s horn as four small Iranian boats approached. The warship was forced to sail uncomfortably close to offshore oil rigs as it altered course to avoid the Iranian ships.
An official later confirmed there have been four close calls with Iranian ships in the past week. US Admiral John Richardson explains that the Nitze incident reflects a growing naval tension between Tehran and Washington, while the Pentagon describes Iran’s behavior as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
“We just recently gave the Iranians $1.3 billion and in return we get this…you really feel like they are playing us for fools,” says Fox News host Leland Vittert.
“Well they have been for some time,” points out military analyst and former Army General Jack Keane. President Obama’s belief that the JCPOA would encourage the Iranians to “join the international community of nations and essentially behave like other nations” is “ridiculous,” says Keane.
Unfortunately Obama’s lack of response to similar antics from Russia and China have emboldened others around the world who want to be seen as thumbing their nose at America. This age old tactic of attempted humiliation was practiced by the Plains Indians in North America called “counting coup.” It is exceedingly dangerous since it can lead to war.
“If you can get that close to a US Navy warship with no consequences, that sends a pretty powerful message about who you are,” notes Vittert.
That’s exactly the type of humiliation Iran wants, explains Keane. “Their strategic objective remains the same: to dominate the region, to drive the United States out of the region, and to destroy the state of Israel so they can have regional hegemony.”
Iran flaunted its power last December when it fired rockets near US ships in the Strait of Hormuz, and again a month later when it sent an unarmed drone flying over a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iranian forces captured and detained 10 Navy sailors when they mistakenly veered into Iranian waters.
“If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it’s an invasion, we confront,” stated Iranian General Hosein Dehghan.
This game of counting coup isn’t limited to Iran. As we wrote in April, Russia has also conducted aggressive and inappropriate behaviors designed to show dominance. China followed suit in May when it sent two fighter jets dangerously close to a US Navy EP-3 surveillance plane.
Unless President Obama suddenly grows a pair, we can expect these frightening taunts to continue.