Flashpoint / Global 16 June 2019 Strait of Hormuz Share Facebook Twitter Email Print Back To Map I. Why it Matters In recent years, the U.S. and Iranian navies have had numerous tense encounters in the Persian Gulf, where 30 per cent of the world’s seaborne-traded crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz every day. An intentional or inadvertent incident at sea could quickly escalate into a direct military confrontation, and risk shipping through the critical energy chokepoint. II. Recent Developments 17 June 2019 After Iran indicated that it was days away from exceeding JCPOA limits on enriched uranium, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that "should Iran deliver on its current threats, and violate the nuclear deal, the international community will have to implement, immediately, the pre-set sanctions mechanism... in any event, Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weaponry". View More 16 June 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo reaffirmed his assessment that the 13 June tanker explosions in the Gulf of Oman "were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping, on freedom of navigation, with the clear intent to deny transit through the strait... we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world over the past 40 days". "President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war", Pompeo added. "We don't want war. We've done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behaviour". He also indicated that "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. That's the goal. That's the objective of our entire campaign with respect to Iran, and to create stability throughout the Middle East as part of that effort". In a separate interview, Pompeo, asked if there was "legal authorisation for a strike on Iran", replied: "We always have the authorisation to defend American interests. Remember, they now have attacked U.S. aircraft". He also contended that "if we relieve sanctions, their nuclear program presents an even greater risk to the U.S." View More 16 June 2019 In a statement, U.S. Central Command announced that "a U.S. MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen by what we asses[s] to be a Huthi SA-6 surface-to-air missile on June 6, 2019. The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Huthi capability, which we asses[s] was enabled by Iranian assistance". On the 13th, CENTCOM went on to indicate, "a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9 over the Gulf of Oman to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous... the SA-7 was ineffective". View More 14 June 2019 Referring to the tanker incident in the Gulf of Oman the previous day, President Trump indicated that "Iran did do it". He went on to remark that "we are being very tough. Yes, we're being very tough on sanctions... they're a nation of terror. And they've changed a lot since I've been president, I can tell you. They were unstoppable and now they are in deep, deep trouble". Asked about the possibility that Iran might attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, Trump replied: "they're not going to be closing it... if it closes, it's not going to be closed for long. And they know it. And they've been told in very strong terms. And we want to get them back to the table if they want to go back. I'm ready when they are. But whenever they're ready, it's ok". He went on to argue that "they're pulling back from everywhere. They're pulling back out of Syria. They're pulling back out of Yemen. They're pulling back - if you take a look at what's actually happening". "I'm not looking to hurt that country", Trump said. "But they can't have a nuclear weapon". View More 14 June 2019 A day after explosions hit two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Iran's diplomatic spokesperson insisted that "Iran is responsible for ensuring the security of the Strait of Hormuz, and we showed this by rushing to save the sailors of the incident-hit vessels in the shortest time possible". He added that "pinning the blame on Iran for the suspicious and regrettable incident for the oil tankers seems to be the easiest and most simplistic thing Mr Pompeo and other U.S. statesmen could do". View More 13 June 2019 In remarks following the tanker explosions in the Gulf of Oman earlier in the day, Secretary Pompeo argued that "this is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests, and they should be understood in the context of 40 years of unprovoked aggression against freedom-loving nations". Citing a string of events beginning in late April, which Pompeo described as "a clear threat to international peace and security", he went on to contend that "Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted", adding that "our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table at the right tome, to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the broad range of threats... to peace and security". "Iran should meet diplomacy with diplomacy", Pompeo advised, "not with terror, bloodshed and extortion". View More 13 June 2019 Two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were struck by explosions, resulting in damage to the vessels and the evacuation of their crews. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif weighed in to say that "suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning", later adding that the "B-Team is sabotaging diplomacy... and covering up economic terrorism by the U.S. against Iran". Secretary of State Pompeo, however, announced that "it is the assessment of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks", and CENTCOM maintained that hours after the initial explosions an IRGC vessel pulled an "unexploded limpet mine" off one of the tankers [VIDEO]. A military spokesperson emphasised that "the U.S. has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests". View More 8 June 2019 The commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, whose deployment had been part of the bolstered U.S. military presence following "escalatory indications" purportedly emanating from Iran in early May, stated that "since we've been operating in the region, we've had several interactions with Iranians. To this point all have been safe and professional". In related remarks, CENTCOM's commander contented that, in light of the deployments, the Iranians were "recalculating. They have to take this into account as they think about various actions that they might take. So we think this is having a very good stabilising effect". He added that "I think things are pretty quiet right now". View More 6 June 2019 The head of U.S. Central Command maintained that the bolstering of U.S. forces in the region "caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I'm not sure they are strategically backing down". "I hesitate to say that deterrence has been established", he added. "We continue to see possible imminent threats". View More 6 June 2019 In a briefing to the UN Security Council regarding the 12 May tanker incident, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway assessed that "the four attacks were part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation carried out by an actor with significant operational capacity, most likely a state actor". The Saudi envoy subsequently asserted that "the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran. We have no hesitation in making this statement". View More 2 June 2019 A senior Iranian military official warned that “the first firing [of rockets] in the Persian Gulf will hike up the oil price to more than $100”. He went on to note that “in the Persian Gulf, the whole American and foreign fleets are within the range of IRGC’s coast-to-sea missiles, which can reach to over 300km”. He further supported Foreign Minister Zarif’s proposal regarding a regional non-aggression pact and maintained “my suggestion is to sign the pact with some countries and form a coalition with some others”. View More 1 June 2019 In an interview with a U.S. television station, Foreign Minister Zarif characterised the maximum pressure campaign against Iran as “economic terrorism”. He described the possibility of negotiation with President Trump as “not very likely” and maintained: “He is imposing pressure, this may work in a real estate market, it does not work in dealing with Iran”. Asked to comment on the alleged “cruise missiles being put on small Iranian boats” in the Persian Gulf, Zarif maintained that “we have the right to defend ourselves … these ships are located very close to our waters, we have the right to put whatever missiles we want to put on them”. He concluded his remarks by saying to Trump, “threats against Iran never work. Never threaten an Iranian, try respect. That may work”. View More 30 May 2019 Backing Bolton’s claims that Iran was behind the 12 May Fujairah incident, Secretary Pompeo insisted that “these were efforts by the Iranians to raise the price of crude oil throughout the world”. View More 29 May 2019 In Abu Dhabi, National Security Advisor John Bolton argued that the 12 May Fujairah incident involved “naval mines almost certainly from Iran”, adding that “it’s clear that Iran is behind the Fujairah attack”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson hit back at Bolton’s remarks, calling them “ridiculous allegation”. “Mr. Bolton and the other warmongering and bellicose ones must know that the Islamic Republic of Iran … will prevent materialization of their ominous plans for creating chaos in the region”, the spokesperson added. View More 26 May 2019 A senior IRGC official argued that "the Americans have been present in the region since 1833 and they are currently at the weakest state throughout the history of their presence in West Asia, and have the minimum number of warships in the Persian Gulf". View More 25 May 2019 An IRGC advisor remarked that "the enemy will understand what we will do with it in case of the slightest folly in the Persian Gulf waters. The Americans should avoid staging a show with deploying two warships in our region". He went to warn that Iran would sink the U.S. vessels if they "make any mistake or folly" using "two missiles or two new and fully secret weapons that we have". View More 24 May 2019 An IRGC general insisted that "we are today witnessing American soldiers in the Persian Gulf with shivering hands and pale faces standing behind a mountain of equipment living like robots in the face of the will of the progenies of this nation". "Whom are you trying to frighten with sending troops from thousands of miles away", he queried. View More 22 May 2019 A senior IRGC official stressed that “everything north of the Strait of Hormuz is under our control” and maintained that U.S. naval forces “cannot approach the waters that fall without our mare clausum”. In related remarks, a senior Iranian defence official reportedly emphasised Iran’s “integrated missile and radar systems” in delivering “a firm and crushing response” against threats to the country. View More 21 May 2019 Addressing U.S. moves to increase its military assets in the Persian Gulf, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned that "having all these military assets in a small waterway is, in and of itself, prone to accident, particularly when you have people who are interested in accidents". "Extreme prudence is required", Zarif added, "and we believe that the U.S. is playing a very, very dangerous game". View More 19 May 2019 U.S. Central Command stated that "Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations commenced enhanced security patrols across the region in international waters May 18", adding that "ships of the GCC - both navies and coast guards - are working in tight coordination with each other and the United States navy". View More 17 May 2019 An IRGC official indicated that "even our short-range missiles can easily reach [U.S.] warships in the Persian Gulf". View More 16 May 2019 U.S. aviation authorities advised "caution when operating in overwater airspace above the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region", warning of "potential for miscalculation or mis-identification" and "GPS interference and other communications jamming". View More 16 May 2019 Tehran's UN envoy stated that "we are not planning for a war. War is not an option for Iran. But at the same time, we have to be prepared for any action against our forces, against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iran. Therefore we are vigilant. We are doing everything possible to lower the tension in the region". "Unfortunately", he added, "there are certain people, both in Washington as well as in our region, who are interested to escalate the tension, who are interested to agitate the situation, to provoke. And I believe that it is in everybody's interest to prevent such an eventuality". The ambassador went on to argue that there were "fake allegations, which are being directed to Iran, against Iran, to prepare something like a conflict something like a war". View More 14 May 2019 The Saudi government reported that "two pump stations on the East-West pipeline were attacked by armed drones which caused a fire and minor damage to Pump Station No. 8"; a senior official stressed that "these attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Huthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran". A Huthi spokesperson subsequently took responsibility for the action, stating that "this is a message to Saudi Arabia, stop your aggression. Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing every day against the Yemeni people". View More 13 May 2019 Discussing the 12 May Fujairah incident, an unnamed U.S. officials speculated that "this is what Iran does... the sort of thing you could see Iran doing". Separate reports relayed an "initial assessment" that "Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies" were culpable for damage to four vessels made by "explosive charges". View More 12 May 2019 The UAE indicated that "four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations... near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman". The Saudi government announced the following day that "two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to the Arabian Gulf... it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels". Iran's diplomatic spokesperson called the developments "concerning and regrettable". View More 12 May 2019 A senior Iranian naval official contended that "the presence of the Americans in the Persian Gulf region has reached its end and they must leave the region... their presence is just for show, futile and deceitful". In related remarks, a senior IRGC official claimed that "an aircraft carrier... was a serious threat for us in the past, but is now a target and threats have turned into opportunity". He also warned that "if Americans make a [mistaken] move, we will hit them on the head". View More 10 May 2019 The Pentagon announced a green light for "the movement of USS Arlington (LPD-24) and a Patriot battery to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) as part of the command's original request for forces from earlier this week. These assets will join the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a U.S. Air Force bomber task force in the Middle East region in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S forces and our interests". View More 9 May 2019 In an advisory, the U.S Maritime Administration assessed that "since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partners interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait or the Persian Gulf". View More 9 May 2019 Discussing the USS Lincoln carrier strike group, whose deployment was cited as part of the U.S.' "clear and unmistakable message" in response to "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran, a senior U.S. naval commander indicated that "if I need to bring it inside the strait [of Hormuz], I will do so... I'm not restricted in any way". He added that "I am not in a war-plan footing and have not been tasked to do so. However, we are absolutely ready to respond to any aggression against the U.S., partners in the region or our interests". View More 8 May 2019 CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie asserted that "the long-term, enduring, most significant threat to stability in the Central Command AOR [Area of Responsibility] is Iran... their hegemonic ambitions, their misbehaviour, their threats to us and our partners in the region, have been consistent elements of the regime's policy for many years". He added that "we know that the Iranian regime knows what our military capabilities are, and they have a healthy respect for them... and while they have avoided direct military conflict with the U.S. and our partners, they have demonstrated the willingness and ability to attack our people, our interests and our friends and allies in the confusing, complex zone just short of armed conflict". McKenzie also addressed the U.S. decision to boost military assets in the region following "escalatory indications" from Iran, stating that "we're not seeking a fight with the Iranian regime, but we do have a military force that's designed to be agile, adaptive and prepared to respond to a variety of contingencies in the Middle East and around the world... if a fight is to be had, we'll be fully prepared to respond and defend our interests - and it won't be a fair fight". View More 6 May 2019 Following National Security Advisor John Bolton's announcement on the deployment of additional U.S. military assets as a "clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime", Secretary of State Pompeo stated that "it is absolutely the case that we've seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests". Pompeo added that "the Iranians understand exactly what our view is of the threats that they're posing to U.S. interests around the world". Acting Secretary of Defence Shanahan described the moves as "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces", further declaring that "we call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation. We will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests". View More 5 May 2019 In a statement, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that "in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the U.S. is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on U.S. interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force". Bolton added that "the U.S. is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the IRGC or regular Iranian forces". View More 3 May 2019 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif indicated that "we have been very clear that we have no interest in escalation [of tensions with the U.S.]" He went on to assert that "the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz are our lifeline... we want them safe, secure and free for navigation of all countries, including Iran". "Iran won't permit the U.S. to threaten the Persian Gulf", Zarif added. View More 2 May 2019 Bahrain's top diplomat indicated that "we see an opportunity for Tehran to review its policy, which had so far brought it to the bring of the abyss". He also opined that Iranian statements about blocking the Strait of Hormuz constitute "a blunt threat to all Gulf states. I still believe that Iran might think thoroughly before taking such a step because it would be a dangerous escalation that would not be allowed to last for even one day". View More 30 April 2019 Referring to the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami maintained that "we have the power to protect our vital interests in this strait and make the necessary decisions in a timely manner". He added that in addition to naval capabilities, "we have other powers, including the missile power and several other ones, so that we can make the necessary decisions in due time and perform them strongly". View More 30 April 2019 A senior Iranian diplomat warned that "the two forces [i.e. those of Iran and the U.S.], which have been reciprocally designated as terrorist groups, may engage in clashes in the Persian Gulf or any other region... there is no doubt that the U.S. will be held accountable for such a situation". View More 28 April 2019 Iran's military chief of staff indicated that "as oil and commodities of other countries are passing through the Strait of Hormuz, ours are also moving through it". He further remarked that "we will definitely confront anyone who attempts to destabilise the Strait of Hormuz, and if our crude is not to pass... others' will not pass either". View More 27 April 2019 Iranian media released footage of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf purportedly filmed by IRGC drones. A U.S. military spokesperson subsequently suggested that "the footage the Iranians recently released... appears to be several years old". View More 24 April 2019 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif indicated that "ships can go through the Strait of Hormuz", adding that "if the U.S. wanted to continue to observe the rules of engagement, the rules of the game, the channels of communication, the prevailing protocols, then in spite of the fact that we consider U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf as inherently destabilising, we're not going to take any action". View More 24 April 2019 Two days after the U.S. decided to end sanctions waivers on Iranian oil, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif predicted that "Iran will continue to sell its oil. We will continue to find buyers for our oil and we will continue to use the Strait of Hormuz as a safe transit passage for the sale of our oil... if the U.S. takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences". He further assessed that senior Israeli and U.S. officials sought "regime change at the very least" and could be "plotting an accident anywhere in the region". Zarif also indicated that "I'm ready... and I have authority" to negotiate a prisoner swap with the U.S. View More 23 April 2019 A U.S. diplomat urged "Iran, and all countries, to respect the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation". View More 22 April 2019 The commander of IRGC naval forces warned that "if Iran's benefits in the Strait of Hormuz, which according to international rules is an international waterway, are denied, we will close it". View More 12 April 2019 A senior U.S. naval official indicated that, following the U.S. decision to designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), "the U.S. Navy has not adjusted its operations and will continue to operate wherever international law allows". View More 9 April 2019 Iran's Expediency Council secretary, who previously served as the IRGC's commander, advised President Trump by tweet to "tell your aircraft carriers to avoid sailing near the IRGC boats". View More 24 March 2019 The U.S. inked a deal with Oman "governing U.S. access to facilities and ports in Salalah and Duqm". A U.S. official explained that "we used to operate on the assumption that we could just steam into the Gulf... [but] the quality and quantity of Iranian weapons raise concerns". The official further noted that "the port [of Duqm] itself is very attractive and the geostrategic location is very attractive... being outside the Strait of Hormuz". View More 22 March 2019 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, noted that "we know historically that Iran has given Hizbollah an average of $700 million a year... we have seen evidence of the impact [of U.S. sanctions] when the leader of Hizbollah makes a public appeal for charity. It speaks for itself. This is the kind of impact that we want". He added that "we know that we have denied the [Iranian] regime even in the short amount of time [since sanctions came into effect] many billions of dollars in revenue", and underscored that the U.S. held "talks with any government where we see sanctions violations or even potential sanctions violations". Hook went on to underscore that "we are... committed to ensuring that troops under Iranian command are out of Syria", and suggested Iran had a "vastly-under reported role in Yemen" despite having "no legitimate interest" in the country. "Giving [Iran] a foothold in Yemen", Hook argued, "allows them to threaten two straits of international commerce". View More 17 March 2019 A senior Iranian defence official revealed that a naval group had been deployed "in order to ensure the security of the Islamic Republic of Iran's shipping lines in the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Bab al-Mandab". View More 16 March 2019 Iran's oil minister asserted that "we are taking [the necessary] measures to export Iran's oil", while cautioning that should the U.S. "make conditions difficult for the exports, conditions will also become more difficult for the world". View More 14 March 2019 As Iran carried out military exercises in the Persian Gulf, a senior IRGC official commented that "despite the empty and satanic dreams of the U.S. and ill-wishers of the Iranian nation, we witnessed tens of modern and advanced domestic RQ-170s and other types of combat drones in flight during a major drill and unique offensive operation". View More 13 March 2019 One week after Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated that "Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea" and warned that Israel's "navy will have a more important role in efforts to block these Iranian actions", Iran's Defence Minister, Amir Hatami, stated that "if they [i.e Israel] have this intention, the issue will be considered as a measure of international insecurity and banditry". Hatami went on to say that "Iran enjoys the required capability to respond to this issue and if it happens, it will give a crushing response". View More 7 March 2019 An Iranian oil tanker reportedly came under attack by pirates in speedboats; commandos from an Iranian naval patrol intervened to repulse the raid. View More 7 March 2019 In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel assessed that "Iran exerts its malign influence throughout the region, through its increased - often unprofessional - activities in the Arabian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, engaging in proxy warfare through its sponsorship of violent extremist organisations (VEOs), and proliferating advanced conventional weapons, including theatre ballistic missiles and weaponised unmanned aerial and maritime systems. Operating in the grey zone of competition below open conflict, Iran conducts unfettered information and cyber campaigns against its adversaries and actively attempts to influence or obstruct the mechanisms of effective governance and domestic politics of several of its sovereign regional neighbours". Looking ahead, Votel anticipated that "Iran will continue to seek to expand its political influence and military presence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and to threaten international trade and regional stability throughout the central region". View More 23 February 2019 Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Ali Shamkhani, indicated that "Iran has designed and put into practice initiatives that would neutralise the illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran's export of oil", while warning that "cutting off [regional] oil exports does not necessarily amount to blocking the Strait of Hormuz. In fact, there are multiple methods to make that happen". View More 22 February 2019 A senior Iranian military official claimed that "the smallest movements along the water borders of the country, especially in the Persian Gulf, are observed with the full authority of the navy, and nothing remains hidden from the sharp eye of the IRGC". View More 21 February 2019 Ahead of a major naval drill, a senior Iranian military official indicated that "missiles with different ranges will be launched from warships and for the first time submarine-launched missiles will also be practiced". He added with respect to the latter that "for the first time these weapons will be tested seriously and we can make the maritime regions unsafe for the enemy in any way possible". View More 17 February 2019 President Rouhani declared that "the power that can defend the country's interests from hundreds of miles away is the navy... the navy is capable of defending not only our coasts in the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Indian Ocean, but also the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran with its presence and authority in international waters". He added that "Bandar Abbas and all southern ports of Iran, the Strait of Hormuz and all our territorial waters are witness and proof of Iran's armed force defending free shipping in the region and the flow of energy around the world, which suggests that Iran's power is never a threat to others". View More 13 February 2019 A senior U.S. defence official assessed that the Iranians "have a growing capability in cruise missiles, they have a growing capability in ballistic missiles, they have a growing capability in unmanned surfaced systems, all these things that we watch that are offensive, and destabilising in nature". He also indicated Iranian transfers by sea of "materials, weapons, arms, missiles to surrogates around the region to be able to promulgate their vision of this region with them as the predominant force... we have seen their hand in the Red Sea with unmanned systems - air systems and surface systems - so we've seen them utilise the maritime as a transport for them exporting their version of the region with them in charge". View More 6 February 2019 A senior Iranian defence official indicated that "we did not have any coast-to-sea missiles before the Islamic Revolution; but our missiles have reached a range of 300km today and will even increase in the near future". View More 5 February 2019 In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel noted that "Iran exerts its malign influence throughout the region, through its increased - often unprofessional - activities in the Arabian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, engaging in proxy warfare through its sponsorship of violent extremist organisations (VEOs) and proliferating advanced conventional weapons, including theatre ballistic missiles and weaponised unmanned aerial and maritime systems. Operating in the grey zone of competition below open conflict, Iran conducts unfettered information and cyber campaigns against its adversaries and actively attempts to influence or obstruct the mechanisms of effective governance and domestic policies of several of its sovereign regional neighbours". Looking ahead, Votel assessed that "Iran will continue to seek to expand its political influence and military presence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and to threaten international trade and regional stability throughout the Central Region". View More 30 January 2019 During a visit to Abu Musa island, the IRGC's commander asserted that "our friendly and neighbourly nations and governments have realised that the Islamic Republic of Iran is their genuine brother and companion, and that the security of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf waters would be ensured only by the regional countries... Iran plays a significant and leading role in establishing such security". View More 29 January 2019 The U.S. intelligence community assessed that Iran "may increase harassment of U.S. and allied warships and merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman". It added that "unprofessional interactions conducted by the IRGC Navy against U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf... could resume should Iran seek to project an image of strength in response to U.S. pressure". View More 31 December 2018 A senior Iranian defence official indicated that "we are planning to increase the radar-evading capability and agility of the IRGC speed boats", and arming them with "new, very small missiles". View More 31 December 2018 Iran's military chief of staff warned that "Iran's southern neighbours should know that besides its peace-loving doctrine, the Islamic Republic has a powerful and decisive military presence and, if needed, it will defend its territorial integrity and hold the inviting states as responsible for the aftermaths". He added that those countries "should not tie their hopes to America". View More 29 December 2018 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif opined that "the presence of the U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf produced extensive tension rather than being constructive". View More 24 December 2018 Speaking after the passage of the USS Stennis through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, a senior Iranian defence official argued that "the presence of this [U.S.] fleet is not important for us since it can do nothing against us... we will never let the fleet come near Iran's territorial waters". In related remarks, an IRGC spokesperson assessed that "in the past ten months, due to the absence of an American [aircraft] carrier in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, we witnessed increased security and calmness and reduced incidents in this strategic area". View More 22 December 2018 The IRGC's commander asserted that "it is the Islamic Republic which ensures the security of the region, Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and friendly countries". He went on to indicate that "from now on, we should be prepared for offence and pursuing enemies". In related remarks, another senior IRGC official indicated that "our core principles and doctrine are defensive but at the operational and tactical levels, it is offensive... when the enemy has an ill-intention against our country we should attack it because our deterrent factor would be the same offense". View More 21 December 2018 The USS Stennis, a U.S. aircraft carrier, sailed through the Strait of Hormuz en route to the Persian Gulf. Media reports indicated that "IRGC vessels shadowed the Stennis and its strike group, at one point launching rockets away from it and flying a drone nearby". However, an Iranian naval official subsequently maintained that "shooting rockets... is a blatant lie". View More 5 December 2018 Commenting on the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif opined that "the presence of foreign forces in the Persian Gulf undermines regional security. But the Islamic Republic will defend its territorial integrity and national interests with all [its] power". View More 4 December 2018 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, stated that "Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz again. The Islamic Republic of Iran does not control the Strait of Hormuz. The strait is an international waterway. The U.S. will continue to work with our partners to ensure frequent navigation and the free flow of commerce in international waterways". View More 4 December 2018 President Rouhani declared that "we will sell our oil and they [i.e. the U.S.] can't stop us from doing this. If the U.S. wants to stop our oil sales, no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf". View More 1 December 2018 A senior Iranian military official asserted that the partnership between Iran's regular and IRGC navies had "entered a new season", and opined that "it is this will and spirit which has made us guardians of security in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman". View More 30 November 2018 A senior Iranian naval official indicated that "53 Iranian naval squadrons comprising warships and destroyers have a constant presence in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab". View More 29 November 2018 A senior Iranian naval official remarked that "despite the U.S. sanctions, Iran has safeguarded Hormuz Strait's security all the time and it will never allow anybody to create centres of insecurity and commit acts of mischief in the region". View More 28 November 2018 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei advised Iranian naval officials to "enhance your abilities and preparations as much as you can so that the enemies of Iran do not even dare to threaten this great nation". "The Islamic Republic does not intend to start a war with anyone", Khamenei noted, "however, you need to strengthen your abilities so much so that not only the enemy will fear attacking Iran, but... the shadow of intimidation and threats will also go away". View More 21 November 2018 A senior IRGC official indicated that "the U.S. bases around us are within our reach and are easy meat for us", citing military facilities in Qatar, Afghanistan and the UAE. "U.S. aircraft carriers", he added, "are like shooting targets for us". View More 19 November 2018 A senior Iranian military official noted that "since the start of the current year, the figures indicate that the Americans and their allies have left the Persian Gulf and they do not have any meaningful presence in the region". "Their presence", he added, "yielded no result but insecurity and gap among regional states". Remaining vessels, he claimed, "are monitored from ground and air and all their words are tapped". View More 13 November 2018 A senior Iranian defence official stated that "we do not believe that the presence of elements from outside the region could ensure the appropriate collective maritime security", adding that "an increase in the geopolitical weight of regional powers... and turning into credible naval powers in the region reveal the onset of a process for replacement of the naval power in the region". View More 12 November 2018 A senior Iranian military official declared that "Iran's armed forces... are prepared today as in the past to protect our fleet of oil tankers against any threats so that it can continue to use marine waterways". View More 3 November 2018 A senior IRGC official opined that "the U.S. economy is not capable of handling a new war. A combat with the Islamic Republic will push the war to outside the region, because the U.S. military structure is worn out and they have been almost driven out of the Persian Gulf". He went on to caution that "U.S. aircraft carriers are within the range of the ballistic missiles with pin-point accuracy that are capable of hitting mobile targets". View More 29 October 2018 A senior Iranian defence official assessed that "the Persian Gulf is the most important and strategic waterway in the world and is among the most vital interests of the country... whoever rules this region, it means that he controls the energy of the world". View More 27 October 2018 U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis posited that "we stand against Iran's unsafe, even reckless behaviour in the maritime domain, like the July attacks on international shipping by Iranian-supplied Huthis in the Bab al-Mandab. These behaviours flout freedom of navigation and disrupt maritime security and global trade". View More 18 October 2018 A U.S. military spokesperson remarked that "even with decreased incidents, we remain concerned with the increased number of Iranian UAVs operating in international airspace at night without navigation lights or an active transponder as would be expected according to international norms". View More 9 October 2018 A senior IRGC official asserted that "the IRGC Navy's strategy in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz is based on [a] mighty presence in Iran's territorial waters and the Americans are fully aware of this operational and military power". He also indicated that "the IRGC Navy uses its vessels and drones to fully monitor any move by the U.S. vessels". View More 9 October 2018 A senior IRGC naval official asserted that "if the Persian Gulf gets unsafe for us, it will be unsafe for everyone". View More 30 September 2018 Iranian media broadcast footage of a purported 21 March encounter between U.S. and IRGC naval forces. View More 25 September 2018 Secretary Pompeo asserted that "Iranian vessels harass ships in international waterways based on maritime claims made in defiance of international law...if the Iranian regime thinks the Strait of Hormuz belongs solely to them, you can bet your last rial that the U.S. will never stand for that". View More 25 September 2018 President Rouhani posited that "the security of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz has always been important for us... we will confront any and all disruptive efforts in this critical waterway in the future". View More 24 September 2018 President Rouhani remarked that "if the U.S. wishes to use force in order to sanction the petroleum industry of Iran, it will certainly see the appropriate response... we do have the power to secure our own waterways and keep our waterways free". "This is not a warning", Rouhani added. "This is a reality. If the Persian Gulf waterway is to remain free and secure, it must remain so for everyone". View More 21 September 2018 Iran kicked off military drills in the Persian Gulf. View More 6 September 2018 The commander of the IRGC's navy opined "that the presence of the U.S. warships in the region not only undermines the security of the regional countries, but also poses environmental problems to the waters". View More 5 September 2018 The IRGC's commander remarked that "Iran's message to the Persian Gulf littoral states is peace and friendship, and the establishment of joint cooperation to ensure security in the Persian Gulf waterway without the presence of foreign forces". He added that "Iran's military power in the region is only meant for defence and deterrence". View More 4 September 2018 President Rouhani declared that "a major part of our oil sales must move from Kharg [Island off Iran's western coast] to Jask [in southern Iran]. View More 29 August 2018 Iran's military chief of staff asserted that "thanks to the IRGC Navy's preparedness and capabilities, the hostile countries are anxious before entering the Strait of Hormuz, as they have obeyed the international [maritime] law over the past year, and if they go beyond the law, they will face the IRGC Navy's counteraction and controlling measures". "The enemies", he added, "should realise that the Persian Gulf is not a proper place for war and clashes". View More 27 August 2018 The head of the IRGC's navy declared that "we defend the Islamic Republic's interests in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and the enemy cannot trouble us in the region. The Persian Gulf is our home and we can establish security in here with the help of the neighbouring states and there is no need for the presence of foreign states, including the U.S." View More 27 August 2018 The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asserted that "Iran does not control the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is an international waterway. The U.S. will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways". View More 23 August 2018 Alireza Tangsiri was tapped to lead the IRGC's naval forces. View More 10 August 2018 U.S. officials indicated that Iran had tested a Fateh-110 ballistic missile during naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. View More 8 August 2018 The commander of U.S. Central Command, Joseph Votel, confirmed that "so far this calendar year, we have not seen any incidents [with Iran] that we would characterise as unsafe or unprofessional... I'm glad that that's the case; I would encourage them to continue to do that". He added that in the Strait of Hormuz, "Iran has a layer of capabilities... but I would just suggest we have capabilities as well". On recent Iranian naval drills, Votel asserted that "the scope and scale of the exercise we saw was similar to what we've seen with other exercises that they've done in this region... I think it's pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach this period of the sanctions here, that they have some capabilities". View More 6 August 2018 A senior Iranian military official declared that "Iran is the guarantor of the security of the Persian Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz and no one else is allowed to talk about the security of this region apart from us". View More 5 August 2018 The IRGC confirmed that it had carried out naval drills, saying that "the exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the international waterway, within the framework of the IRGC's annual calendar exercises program". The IRGC's commander further "emphasised the need to maintain and enhance all-faceted defence readiness in order to secure the strategic waterway of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and to proportionately counter potential threats and adventurism by the enemies". View More 2 August 2018 Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, posited on Twitter that the "U.S. Navy can't seem to find its way around our waters. Perhaps because it hasn't figured out its name: Persian Gulf... or maybe it doesn't know what it's doing in our backyard, seven thousand miles from home". View More 2 August 2018 U.S. officials assessed that Iran had launched a naval drill involving "possibly more than 100 vessels". View More 1 August 2018 The commander of Iran's navy asserted that "if any oil faucet in the region is turned on and the petrodollars go to the pocket of those who threaten Iran, it will definitely have impacts on the security of the Strait [of Hormuz]". View More 1 August 2018 U.S. Central Command issued a statement noting that "we are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways". The statement added that "we continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws". View More 31 July 2018 A senior Iranian naval official declared that "the Strait of Hormuz remaining open hinges on Iran's interests and the international community should live up to its obligations towards the Islamic Republic". View More 31 July 2018 President Rouhani asserted that "Iran has never sought tensions in the region and does not want any problem to happen for [the] world's waterways, but [it] will never let go of its rights to export oil". View More 28 July 2018 A senior IRGC official asserted that "Iran's geopolitical position is such that without the presence of the Islamic Republic it is impossible to ensure the security of the waterways in the region... this security is influenced by Iran's political will. For what, when a country threatens to stop Iranian oil exports, Iran's reciprocal threat is a credible one". View More 27 July 2018 The U.S. defence secretary, Jim Mattis, remarked that "Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. They've done that previously in years past... clearly, this would be an attack on international shipping, and it would have, obviously, an international response to reopen the shipping lanes with whatever that took, because the world's economy depends on that energy, those energy supplies flowing out of there". View More 26 July 2018 The commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, warned President Trump that "war would mean the destruction of all your resources. You might start the war, but we would be the ones ending it". Soleimani added that "I myself and the IRGC's Quds Force are enough to face you as an adversary", and claimed that "we are near you, where you can't even imagine". He also asserted that "the Red Sea, which was secure, is no longer secure with the American presence". View More 25 July 2018 The IRGC's commander opined that "if the adventurous president of the U.S. hears about the IRGC's capabilities today... he will never make such a damn mistake [threatening Iran] and will realise that responding to an oil threat would be easy [for Iran]". View More 24 July 2018 Iran's military chief of staff asserted that "Iran, as the superior power in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, has always guaranteed security of shipping in the vital waterway... and enjoys the power to make any move [it desires] in this region". View More 22 July 2018 A senior Iranian military official stated that "the president's warning is not a new warning and our nation and armed forces have been warning about this for years. I would like to repeat that again, the Strait of Hormuz must either be open or closed for all". View More 22 July 2018 President Rouhani warned that "we are the... guarantor of security of the waterway of the region throughout history. Don't play with the lion's tail; you will regret it". View More 21 July 2018 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei asserted that "the remarks made by the President... stating that 'if Iran's oil export is blocked, no other country in the region can export oil either', are important remarks that represent the approach and policies of the establishment". View More 16 July 2018 A senior Iranian military official asserted that following the January 2016 detention of ten U.S sailors, "we witnessed a more lawful behaviour from the Americans in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz regions, so if there have been any cuts in the number of confrontations, it is because the U.S. has learned its lessons, otherwise there have been no particular changes in the IRGC Navy's routine patrols". View More 10 July 2018 An Iranian military official opined that the U.S. has grown "more abiding by... international law in the past seven months, which goes to show a considerable drop in their adventurist behaviour in the Persian Gulf". View More 10 July 2018 The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, underscored that the U.S. "is committed to keeping sea lines open, keeping the transit of oil available for the entire world". View More 10 July 2018 A senior Iranian lawmaker opined that "the Americans are not prepared for a new war in the Persian Gulf, therefore President [Rouhani's] words were a good threat that will result in a positive impact and act as a deterrent to any bans against Iran's oil exports". View More 8 July 2018 President Trump tweeted data indicating a decrease in Iranian harassment of U.S. vessels. View More 5 July 2018 The IRGC commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, declared that "we will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one". View More 5 July 2018 A U.S. military spokesperson affirmed that "we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows". View More 4 July 2018 In a letter to President Rouhani, the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, wrote that "your remarks that if the Islamic Republic of Iran's oil is not exported, there will be no guarantee for export of oil from any other point in this region... is a source of pride and honour". View More 2 July 2018 President Rouhani cautioned that "it seems they [ie the U.S.] do not understand what they are saying when they say Iran will not be allowed to export even a single drop of oil... all right, if you can do such a thing, do it and see the result!" View More 14 May 2018 The U.S. chief of naval operations, John Richardson, described "a period of uncertainty that we are entering right now" which necessitates being "even a little bit more alert than usual". View More 26 April 2018 President Trump observed that "we haven't seen their little boats circling our ships in the ocean lately, because they know if they do circle the ships they're not going to be there very long". View More 29 January 2018 The IRGC's naval chief noted that "we are now observing a more rule-abiding and less confrontational behavior by American forces in maritime routes of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz". View More 25 January 2018 The Pentagon indicated that there had been no unsafe and/or professional interactions between U.S. and Iranian naval forces since August 2017. View More 22 January 2018 As Iranian forces launched a two-day exercise off the southern coast, a military spokesman announced that "two warships belonging to the [U.S.-led] coalition approached the drill's area" and were warned off. View More 19 December 2017 A senior military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader (and former commander of the IRGC), Yahya Rahim Safavi, posited that the “Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman will be [the] frontline of possible future battles”. View More 28 November 2017 Iran marked national navy day by announcing new weapons systems and “the Middle East’s biggest training warship”. View More 22 November 2017 The commander of Iran’s navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, announced that Iran “would unveil new vessels and submarines within the next year”, and dispatch ships across the Atlantic for visits to Latin America. View More 8 October 2017 The IRGC navy conducted a naval parade in the Persian Gulf, deploying “more than 110 rocket-launching speedboats, long-, mid- and short-range missile launchers, mining vessels as well as reconnaissance, defensive and logistic vessels” for the occasion. View More 10 September 2017 The Iranian media reported that Iran’s navy had warned off a U.S. vessel from approaching a stricken fishing boat approximately 70km off Iran’s southern coast. U.S. officials denied that there had been navy-to-navy communication. View More 3 September 2017 The chief of staff of Iran’s military, Mohammad Baqeri, dismissed the possibility of U.S.-Iran naval coordination. “Unfortunately”, said Baqri, “a country from the other side of the world … assumes special rights [for itself] in the Persian Gulf and says ‘Iran should coordinate with us if it wants to approach us’, which is precisely [an instance of] excessive demand”. View More 14 August 2017 U.S. officials said that an Iranian drone approached the USS Nimitz on 13 August and “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional approach”. View More 8 August 2017 U.S. officials reported an “unsafe and unprofessional interaction” by an Iranian QOM-1 drone against a U.S. aircraft from the USS Nimitz. U.S. Central Command listed the incident as “the 13th unsafe and/or unprofessional interaction between U.S. and Iranian maritime forces in 2017”. View More 29 July 2017 The IRGC released a statement accusing the U.S. navy of “a provocative and unprofessional move” against IRGC boats the previous day. View More 25 July 2017 The USS Thunderbolt fired at an approaching Iranian ship. U.S. officials stated that “the IRGC navy boat was coming in at a high rate of speed. It did not respond to any signals, they did not respond to any bridge-to-bridge calls, [the Thunderbolt] felt there was no choice except to fire the warning shots”. The IRGC said that the U.S. fired “with the aim of provocation and intimidation”. View More 15 June 2017 According to U.S. defence officials, an IRGC navy guided-missile boat “harassed” three U.S. ships in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians also “trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation”, an act that U.S. officials characterised as “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct. View More See more Loading Video A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots near an Iranian vessel, 25 July 2017 AP III. Background The Gulf has for decades been an arena for U.S.-Iran friction. This was most dramatically highlighted during the last days of the Iran-Iraq war, when the U.S. navy launched Operation Earnest Will in 1987 to protect U.S.-allied vessels in the area. In Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988, U.S. forces sank or severely damaged half of Iran’s operational fleet days after a U.S. frigate was badly hit by an Iranian mine off the coast of Qatar. U.S. defence officials tallied 23 “unsafe and/or unprofessional” incidents between U.S. and Iranian naval forces in 2015. The next year, the figure rose to 35. These represent a tenth of all encounters between the two navies, which stood at 300 in 2015 and 250 in the first half of 2016. President Trump had previously threatened that Iranian boats harassing the U.S. navy “will be shot out of the water”. In turn, Iranian officials have complained about both the U.S. presence and “harassment” by the U.S. navy. The Gulf largely falls within the purview of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) navy, though the regular army’s navy operates there as well. The most significant recent incident occurred in January 2016, when two U.S. riverine command boats entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island. The IRGC navy detained ten U.S. sailors; several exchanges between then-Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, facilitated the sailors’ release the following morning. In a subsequent investigation, the U.S. navy maintained “that Iran violated international law by impeding the boat’s innocent passage transit and they violated our sovereign immunity by boarding, searching and seizing the boats and by photographing and video recording the crew”. Iran has also been accused of dispatching weapons to Huthi rebels in Yemen. In 2015, for example, the Saudi-led coalition announced the capture of a munition-laden Iranian fishing boat off the coast of Oman. In February 2016, HMAS Darwin, an Australian frigate, intercepted a boat loaded with nearly 2,000 AK-47s, dozens of rocket-propelled grenades and various other weapons. U.S. officials believed the shipment to be Iranian in origin and bound for Yemen. In March 2016, FS Provence, a French destroyer, intercepted a boat in the northern Indian Ocean containing “several hundred AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank weapons”, again believed to be bound for Yemen. The USS Sirocco and USS Gravely made a similar seizure on 28 March 2016, dubbed by U.S. officials “the latest in a string of illicit weapons shipments assessed by the U.S. to have originated in Iran”. In February 2017, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly considered intercepting and boarding an Iranian ship to search for contraband weapons, but ultimately decided against it. In September 2017, U.S. Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan noted that there had been no naval interdictions of Iranian arms bound for Yemen for over a year, but that in his judgement Iranian military support for the Huthis was ongoing. Adding to the sensitivities around the area is the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz: the U.S. Energy Information Administration refers to the Strait as “the world’s most important chokepoint”. Over the years, Iran has repeatedly threatened to block it. Not every maritime interaction between Iran and the U.S. has been adversarial. In October 2017, for example, naval officials from Iran and the U.S. reportedly liaised to facilitate the rescue of Iranian fishermen by the USS Howard. Loading Video IRGC detained and later released 10 US Navy troops after their armed boats strayed into Iranian territorial waters. 13 January 2016 FARS NEWS AGENCY IV. Analysis No Buffer: Unlike most other U.S.-Iran flashpoints across the Middle East, which involve their respective local allies, the prospect of a naval incident in the Persian Gulf would bring Tehran and Washington into direct confrontation. A Consequential Clash: A confrontation between the two navies in the Persian Gulf, even if contained, could have broader consequences. Regardless of who provokes a clash, Iran is unlikely to go too far in tangling with the U.S. navy with its superior capabilities. But since in the eyes of Iran’s supreme leader not responding to perceived U.S. aggression only would invite more of it, Iran might choose indirect retaliation against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, which are in close proximity of militias backed by Iran. Asymmetry as Doctrine: Iran’s navy is no match for its U.S. counterpart. To compensate for their relative technical shortcomings, Iran’s naval forces emphasise smaller, more nimble craft and missiles – a technique that an expert has qualified as “a form of guerrilla warfare at sea”. Both Iran and the U.S. agree that this Iranian asymmetric naval capability is and will remain at the forefront of Iran’s defensive strategy. IRGC Navy maneuver in Persian Gulf, 8 October 2017 TASNIM V. Scenarios and Recommendations An Uneasy Accommodation: While Iran’s foreign minister has taken to social media to question “what the U.S. Navy [is] doing 7,500 miles from home”, a U.S. naval presence in international waters in support of its regional allies and to secure energy flows will not be ending any time soon. Given the nature of the narrow waterway – with shipping lanes in either direction only two miles wide – and rising tensions, incidents are almost unavoidable. Washington and Tehran would therefore both benefit from negotiating an Incidents At Sea agreement. Crisis Contacts: While the possibility of an incident similar to the one in January 2016 that led to the detention of ten U.S. sailors is real, there is little at the moment to suggest that the type of swift resolution facilitated by Kerry and Zarif during that episode could be replicated now. Some in Washington took serious umbrage at Iran’s humiliating treatment of the U.S. sailors, while some in Tehran crowed over Iran’s iron-fist protection of its territorial waters. Yet a potential escalation was successfully avoided mainly because of a high-level communications channel and a degree of trust built up between the two sides. Regardless of the two sides’ ability or willingness to resume high-level diplomatic engagement, Iran and the U.S. should establish a military-to-military communications channel to mitigate the risk of future incidents in the Persian Gulf, and lay the basis for negotiating an Incidents At Sea agreement.