‘Western media attempting to portray Iran as threat’
According to US military officials, Iranian vessels launched “several unguided rockets” near the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and its convoy as it entered the Persian Gulf after giving 23-minutes' warning of a live-fire exercise. Tehran officially denied on Tuesday that its Revolutionary Guards fired any rockets. The incident comes two months after Iran approved a historic nuclear deal with six nations, including the US, under the terms of which Tehran has to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
RT: President Obama has been hailing the breakthrough in relations between the two countries after the nuclear deal. Could something like this near accident affect that process?
Charles Shoebridge: To some degree they do, but in general, I think, they do not for this reason. First of all, of course, it is obviously good practice to give as much advance notice as possible of live-fire exercises. One needs to consider though that it is not at all unusual for navies, particularly of those that call themselves ‘world powers’, to carry out these kind of live-fire exercise in their own and in international waters, whether they give notice or not.
For example, the US Navy only a couple of months ago was carrying out live-fire exercises in the Black Sea, which Russia could perhaps call provocative. Only in the summer earlier this year the US Navy was carrying out or taking part in live-fire exercises close to the North Korean border or sea space, and in terms of the maritime shipping lanes, which North Korea certainly did call provocative and threatened war as they often do in response. And so all powers can take part in these kinds of activities.
I think what is interesting here is that despite the fact that the Iranian Navy did give notice, and very tellingly this was a joint task with the American and French navies taking part, and AP [Associated Press], the news agency [yesterday quoted] an authority within the French naval command saying that they didn’t regard it as anything serious and worth talking about, particularly because notice was given - 23 minutes’ notice - and at no stage was there any threat to the French and American ships because the missiles were fired in a completely different direction.
What is interesting, I think, isn’t so much that this incident took place, but that there are still elements notwithstanding the kind of improvement of relations that you’ve mentioned between the West, America in particular, and Iran, there are still those that want to make as much as possible - particularly in the Western media - about these kind of instances, to play them up out of all proportion to portray Iran as a threat.
RT: In terms of the political ramifications, do you think there will be something of play down by politicians?
CS: Yes, I think it will be. Generally now amongst much of the West, and particularly in the EU area, and certainly one can see positive signs from people such as John Kerry. His statements recently have been very positive, perhaps even warm towards Iran, much to the annoyance of America’s allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Notwithstanding that there is now a general drive, I think, certainly with Obama, who wants it as a part of his legacy, and with good reason, that he has removed the so-called nuclear threat from Iran. And for that to happen, disagreement that has taken place very recently must progress. And there has been progress on that. Kerry very recently, in last few days, announced that, or confirmed that Iran is definitely on track in complying with its obligations under those nuclear treaty terms that it agreed with.
Consequently, add to that the issue of ISIS and other terrorist groups where Iranian cooperation is particularly in areas such as Syria and Iraq is seen as important. In many ways now not many people seriously want this kind of instant to derail what is quite clearly a direction of travel, should we say, towards closer relations and – hopefully, I think, all sides would agree - a lifting of sanctions in the end against Iran.
But one can see from the Western media, as I said, that they try to play this up. For example, the BBC’s headline said something like “Iran tests US patience” without even inverted commas as if that was a fact that Iran was testing US patience. NBC [National Broadcasting Company] - its news [yesterday] says in its headlines that the ‘US Navy has a close call with Iran missiles’. Both of these seem very exaggerated given the comments of the French navy spokesman, plus the true situation of how around the world navies take part in live fire exercises.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.