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Iranian Commander: 'Belligerent' Forces In Persian Gulf Might Face IRGC 'Action'

IRAN -- FILE PHOTO -- Iranian Military Chief of Staff General Mohammad Baqeri meets with Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar (not seen) in Tehran, Iran October 2, 2017.
IRAN -- FILE PHOTO -- Iranian Military Chief of Staff General Mohammad Baqeri meets with Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar (not seen) in Tehran, Iran October 2, 2017.

Chief of the Joint Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Mohammad Hossein Baqeri has threatened that foreign forces sailing through the Strait of Hormuz will face action by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) if they violate international regulations.

IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim quoted Baqeri as saying on August 29 that the forces of "belligerent countries" have acted according to international regulations during the past year, but, "They will have to face confrontation or controlling measures if they act outside the requirements of international law."

"The Persian Gulf is part of our home, and our enemies are its unwanted guests," Baqeri said.

Baqeri renewed Iran's usual threats about forces near the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an August 27 tweet, "The Islamic Republic of Iran does not control the Strait of Hormuz," adding, "The Strait is an international waterway."

Pompeo further emphasized, "The United States will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways."

In his statement, Baqeri also said that the Iranian armed forces "never underestimate the enemy's threats while always monitoring their strategy."

He added, "The enemies should know that the Persian Gulf is not the right place for them to enter into a war. Every time an ignorant person in America issues an order to start a war, their own experts say that the United States is not capable of confronting the Islamic Republic."

He did not offer any examples of evidence to back up his assertion.

Also, on August 29, Alireza Tangsiri, the new commander of the IRGC Navy, said Iran was "in full control" of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.

Iran's president and military commanders have threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz as the United States announced renewed sanctions and started exerting pressure to minimize Iran's oil sales following the U.S. pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran. However, the U.S. chief of naval operations, John Richardson, warned Iran at the time that the United States will ensure free navigation through the strait even if it has to use force.

During a press conference on August 28, U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, “Iran has been put on notice” for what he called mischief throughout the region.

Mattis listed the issues that the United States has with Iran’s activities in the region, including “what they are doing with Assad, the threats about the Strait of Hormuz, the support for the Houthis with the missiles that are being fired into Saudi Arabia.”

Iran's threat to international navigation in the region seemed to have expanded to Bab al-Mandab as Shi'ite rebels in Yemen targeted two Saudi oil tankers in late July. Following the attacks, an IRGC official, Nasser Shabani, said in a controversial statement on August 6 that Iran had asked Houthi rebels to attack the Saudi tankers.

However, IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif denied the statement, adding that Shabani had "no responsibility" at the IRGC, although the press identified him as chairman of defense research center at an IRGC university.