Iran Constantly Harassed The US Navy Under Obama. That Stopped Under Trump

Bullet Points

The Iranian military went from harassing the bejesus out of U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf during the Obama administration to effectively keeping its distance since the early months of the Trump administration, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose


  • The Iranians averaged 2.5 "unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions" monthly over a 20-month period starting in January 2016, 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Chloe Morgan told Task & Purpose, around the same time Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained a pair U.S. Navy riverine command boats belonging to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf.
  • In August 2017, those interactions ceased after an Iranian QOM-1 unmanned aerial vehicle buzzed the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.
  • According to the 5th Fleet, the Navy experienced 36 unsafe interactions in 2016 and just 14 in 2017; so far this year, U.S. military personnel and vessels have gone unmolested by Iranian maritime forces.
  • But why? "We are not going to speculate on the reason for this recent positive trend in interactions, though we hope it will continue in the future," Lt. Morgan told Task & Purpose. "The United States Navy has not adjusted its operations and will continue to operate wherever international law allows."
  • One potential explanation: The Iranians “openly acknowledged there was a shift that happened roughly around the time we had our political transition,” as Foundation for Defense of Democracies vice president Jonathan Schanzer told Business Insider back in March. “There was a status quo and the status quo changed.”

That changing status quo, in Schanzer's interpretation, includes a stark reversal to the diplomatic inroads made with the Iranian regime under the Obama administration, including Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

"They realize if they want to actually achieve their objectives across the Middle East," he said, "they needed to dial back on the harassment that would needlessly provoke the U.S."

Madman theory: It works, sometimes!

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