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Did Iran just mock the U.S. Coast Guard following an altercation?

The Coast Guard ship Monomoy sits in the North Arabian Gulf in 2007. It was involved in an incident with an Iranian fishing vessel earlier this week, officials with both countries say. (Photo courtesy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Henise)

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that personnel on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter fired a warning shot after getting into an altercation with a wooden Iranian fishing vessel in the Persian Gulf. The Coast Guard sent members on a smaller craft to get closer to the boat, and its crew responded by leveling a machine gun. That prompted the warning shot, and the situation deescalated afterward, officials said.

At least, that’s the U.S. version of events. Iran responded Friday, confirming that the Coast Guard fired on an Iranian ship known as a dhow, but saying that the incident should not be characterized as a clash, according to an Associated Press report. The U.S. ship involved is the USCGC Monomy.

Adm. Ali Fadavi, the naval chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, then added that “Americans feared and felt danger from a fishing dhow,” and “should be fearful” whenever they are in the Persian Gulf.

It’s not the first time that Iranians have either mocked or threatened U.S personnel. In May, for example, the same Iranian admiral said that U.S. aircraft carriers — which carry immense firepower and dozens of war planes — would make an “easy target” because they are so large.

“Aircraft carriers are the symbol of America’s military might,” Fadava said, acknowledging Iran is building a replica of one. “The carriers are responsible for supplying America’s air power. So, it’s natural that we want to sink the carriers.”

Separately, an Iranian Fokker F27 patrol plane “buzzed” the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower somewhere in the Middle East in April 2010. U.S. Navy officials downplayed the incident.

There’s also a famous incident in January 2008 in which Iranian patrol boats were seen in a video released by the U.S. Navy performing harassing maneuvers while threats were broadcast over the radio. Some questioned whether it was really Iranians on the radio, or if it was unrelated hecklers in another ship or onshore.

It was common for mariners to invoke insults and racially charged epithets over the radio in that region, often using the handle “Filipino Monkey,” Navy Times reported at the time. The “Filipino Monkey” appears worldwide, but is common in the Strait of Hormuz because of all the international traffic in the waterways, one source told Navy Times.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.



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Dan Lamothe · August 29, 2014

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