Days ago we took note of Secretary of State Pompeo’s somewhat rare epic ‘regime change tweet tirade’ which included no less than nine fiery statements coming in minutes aimed at ‘rogue regimes’ Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.
Though some pundits have noted the administration is looking for a “distraction” and way out of the nation’s corona-crisis, perhaps eager to claim an easy ‘victory’ prior to November on the foreign policy front, it does look as if things in both the Persian Gulf and even Caribbean (where 5 Iranian fuel tankers are inbound to deliver gasoline to Maduro’s Venezuela) are heating up and set for violent showdown.
Amid an exchange of heightening threats and counter-threats between Tehran and Washington, Fox News reports that an elite US Marine unit is conducting ongoing ‘live-fire’ drills in the Persian Gulf. This is a clear “message to Iran” reports Fox’s Lucas Tomlinson.
“In a message to Iran, U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship does some target practice in Persian Gulf with the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit,” Thomlinson writes, also publishing rare photos of the late night operation.
He further describes: “The live-fire training began on same day U.S. military warned Iran to keep back 100 meters from its warships after harassment by small gunboats from Islamic Revolutionary Guard last month.”
Days ago, on May 19, the US Navy issued an alert which Reuters described as “aimed squarely at Iran”.
It warned that all ships in the gulf must stay at least 100 meters away from U.S. warships or risk being “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures.”
“Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a U.S. naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat,” the official maritime alert said.
Reuters noted further, “The Pentagon has stated that Trump’s threat was meant to underscore the Navy’s right to self-defense.”
This was after multiple filmed incidents involving Iranian naval ‘fast-boats’ in high-risk maneuvers near American ships, aimed at harassing the US presence.
As we’ve underscored before, a number of indicators suggest we are in for another hot ‘tanker war’ summer in the Gulf, akin to last year’s tit-for-tat escalation.
But this time around the potential for a major conflict is even more likely, given the US killing of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January, which has significantly raised the stakes.