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U.S. Commander Denounces 'Provocative' Iranian Guard Maneuvers

A top U.S. commander sharply criticized recent high-speed maneuvers by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boats in the Persian Gulf that last week prompted a U.S. Navy ship to fire warning shots.

General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said on August 30 that these episodes are worrying because they risk triggering a dangerous escalation.

"It is provocative. In some cases, it's unsafe. And it can lead to situations where we may not be able to deescalate in time before something happens," he said.

He placed blame squarely on hard-liners in Tehran.

"I am concerned about rogue commanders, rogue Iranian Quds force naval commanders who are operating in a provocative manner and are trying to test us," he said. "This is, in my view, not about the Iranian people."

The U.S. maintains a near-continuous naval presence in the Persian Gulf and its frequent encounters with Iranian vessels usually go without incident.

But last week, the USS Squall fired three warning shots as an Iranian boat came within 200 yards of another U.S. warship, in one of three close encounters in the Gulf that day.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP