Iran says US ‘got the message’ on tense exchanges in Persian Gulf after Navy admiral’s remarks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Monday it was glad the United States “got the message” and modified its behavior in the Persian Gulf, after the top U.S. Navy official in the region said his forces had reached a state of deterrence with Iran after months of regional attacks and seizures at sea.

“We are happy that the other party has got the message and made its behavior more respectful,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters. He said the U.S. military is the “main source of tension” in the region and that Iranian forces have always acted professionally.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. has often had an unprofessional approach toward Iran’s navy,” he said.

President Donald Trump speaks as Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks on after a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Oct. 7, 2019, in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

He was responding to Vice Adm. Sam Paparo’s remarks, delivered at a conference in Bahrain on Sunday. Paparo, who oversees the Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said the two sides had reached a state of “uneasy deterrence” and that he had a “healthy respect” for Iran’s regular navy and the naval forces of its Revolutionary Guard.

Tensions remain high over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. The killing of Iran’s top general in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq in January pushed the two countries to the brink of war, with Iran responding with a missile attack on U.S. forces.

Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, speaks at the Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 change of command ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Aug. 31, 2020. (MC3 Dawson Roth/Navy)

The U.S. 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 with machine guns and missile launches in their presence.

In recent years Iran has seized oil tankers and been blamed for a series of limpet mine explosions targeting tankers. Tehran denied involvement, but Revolutionary Guard members were filmed taking an unexploded mine away from one tanker.

In recent days, a mine struck an oil tanker off Saudi Arabia and a cargo ship near Yemen came under assault. Suspicion immediately fell on Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis. The rebels have not commented on the attacks.

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