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Iran Harassed The US Navy Under Obama. Here's Why It Stopped Under Trump
Iran's navy made a point of harassing and humiliating U.S. Navy vessels in 2016 after then-President Barack Obama sealed the Iran nuclear deal, but the U.S. says things have changed since August 2017.
"It seems like they've absolutely made a conscious decision to give us more space," Navy Cmdr. William Urban recently said. "That is definitely a change in their behavior."
During Obama's presidency, Iran would charge Navy ships with fast attack craft, buzz fighter jets with drones, and even shine lasers at helicopters operating at sea.
But the worst, most embarrassing incident occurred in January 2016, when Iran's navy seized two Navy riverine boats and the 10 sailors on board after the ship wandered into Iranian waters due to mechanical issues. They broadcast footage of the sailors, crying, in detention, on television across the country. Iran later announced plans to build a monument commemorating the event.
U.S. Navy riverine sailors detained by Iranian forces on Jan. 12, 2016 off Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.Fars News Agency
Later that year Iranian ships conducted "unsafe and unprofessional," and often taunting, maneuvers around Navy ships in the Persian Gulf five times in about a month.
In September of that same year, Trump addressed Iran while on the campaign trail. "When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water," Trump said.
Shortly after Trump's election, the incidents noticeably stopped despite Trump's open hostility towards Iran, compared to Obama's attempts to appease them.
The "openly acknowledged there was a shift that happened roughly around the time we had our political transition," Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. "There was a status quo and the status quo changed."
According to Schanzer, the Trump administration gave no official warning to Iran over the naval incidents, but instead, "the unpredictability of Trump has made Iran more reticent to test American red lines."
Compared to the U.S. Navy, the best on earth, Iran's navy just treads water. Iranians, even the hardliners, must know their small attack craft can't pose a meaningful threat to U.S. ships, and even if they could, U.S. retaliation would devastate the forces.
Instead, rushing U.S. ships and putting them on the defensive, as well as capturing sailors, works mainly for propaganda purposes for Iran, whose authoritarian regime controls the media and pushes a heavily anti-U.S. agenda.
Iran's fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass U.S. Navy ships.Fars News Agency
With Trump similarly focused on optics and pledging to revitalize the U.S. military, Iran may have pivoted towards quietly pursuing its foreign policy goals, rather than making a scene that Trump could react to violently.
"There's another side of this," said Schanzer. "They understood that there was a change in the rules of the risk/reward calculus, but they also seem to understand that there was less of a policy with regard to their regional activity from Yemen to Iraq to Syria."
So while Iran has dropped the very visible, U.S.-centric naval run-ins, it's picked up on recruiting militias, deploying its armed forces to Syria, and supplying anti-U.S. and anti-Israel militant groups.
"They realize if they want to actually achieve their objectives across the Middle East, they needed to dial back on the harassment that would needlessly provoke the U.S.," Schanzer said.
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Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.
Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."
"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.
For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.