‘Uneasy deterrence’ reached with Iran, says US Navy official

Dubai, December 6

The top US Navy official in the Mideast said Sunday America has reached an “uneasy deterrence” with Iran after months of regional attacks and seizures at sea, even as tensions remain high between Washington and Tehran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.

Vice Adm Sam Paparo, who oversees the Navy’s fifth fleet based in Bahrain, struck an academic tone in comments to the annual Manama Dialogue hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He described having a “healthy respect” for both Iran’s regular navy and the naval forces of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Tense encounters

  • The US Navy routinely has tense encounters with the Revolutionary Guard, whose speed boats race alongside American warships in the Persian Gulf and sometimes conduct live fire drills.
  • The Guard patrols the waters of Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s regular navy operates in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

While Iran has not directly seized or targeted a tanker in recent months, a mine recently struck an oil tanker off Saudi Arabia and a cargo ship near Yemen came under assault. Suspicion immediately fell on Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for being behind both attacks. The Houthis have not commented on either attack. Paparo, a former Navy fighter pilot who most recently served as director of operations at the US military’s Central Command, offered a different stance than his immediate predecessor, Vice Adm James Malloy. In one of his last comments to journalists in August, Malloy referred to Iran as “reckless and provocative” and always trying in dramatic naval drills to “lower the denominator until they’re sure that they can look like they’ve won something.” — AP

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