- Trump has ordered the navy to take out Iranian boats that harass ships.
- Iran has asked the United States to concentrate on the Covid-19 crisis.
- Tensions between the US and Iran have increased.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has formally announced the successful launch of a military satellite into orbit. Christened Nur (“Light”), it reached an orbit of 264 miles after ascent using a Qased launcher. This is according to the IRGC statement. The nation had attempted numerous launches in recent months but failed.
That said, the success of the latest launch seems to have escalated tensions between Iran and the United States. Just hours after the IRGC announcement, US President Donald Trump publicly pronounced that he had directed the navy to shoot down and destroy Iranian gunboats that harass US warships at sea.
His statement was likely in response to an incident that occurred in the Gulf about a week ago. Eleven IRGC vessels allegedly made numerous aggressive approaches towards an armada of six US Navy ships.
According to a communique issued by the US military, “The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, [and] were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.”
Senior Pentagon officials have elaborated on Trump’s statement and said that it is a warning to Tehran. According to Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Norquist, the navy will continue to abide by set guidelines on the right to self-defense. As such, there’ll be no drastic change in rules. “The president issued an important warning to the Iranians, what he was emphasising is all of our ships retain the right of self-defence,” Norquist said.
Iran responded to Trump’s tweet by underlining that the US should be focused on overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and not on creating conflict. “Today, instead of bullying others, the Americans should put all their efforts toward saving those members of their forces who are infected with coronavirus,” Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said.
On Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed that there had been a tense encounter with US warship in recent weeks. The IRGC, however, blamed US forces for the incident. Relations between the two countries have been strained since Trump pulled the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed a series of crippling sanctions.
Moreover, the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year via a drone strike in Iraq pushed the two countries to the brink of war. Iran launched a counterstrike on January 8. A rocket attack hit Ain al-Assad base in Iraq, which is used as a US military station. No US personnel were killed, but over 100 soldiers were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
The Iran satellite launch sends the wrong message to humanitarian agencies. The nation has been accused of using its resources to advance military supremacy in the region instead of supporting its health programs, especially now that the COVID-19 crisis is ravaging the country. Over 5,300 Iranians have died so far this year due to the virus.