Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command, lambasted the recent actions of Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf as "just plain unprofessional" and "unsafe" during a press briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
A reporter asked Votel about Iran’s recent harassment of U.S. Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf by its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp vessels and the effects this activity may have on the world’s oil market. The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic chokepoint through which a substantial amount of the world’s oil flows to get to market.
Votel said that Iran’s actions were nothing new before tearing into the Iranians and saying that he does not believe commercials vessels will be harassed by Iran.
"Iran’s actions here in the Arabian [Persian] Gulf are unlike anybody else. No one else does what they do in the Arabian Gulf," Votel said. "They don’t go out and they don’t drive fast boats towards military vessels out there in the same way that they do."
"What I call on Iran to do is to be the professional force they claim to be. Professional militaries, professional maritime forces don’t operate in that way," Votel continued. "We acknowledge all parties, all countries in that area have the right to operate in international waters, but they should do so in a responsible manner and what we see with the Iranians is not particularly responsible. It is provocative in some cases, and it’s unsafe and it can lead to situations where we may not be able to deescalate in a time before something happens."
Votel went on to praise the actions of American Naval personnel during these harassments.
When asked by another reporter if the Iran nuclear deal has had an effect on Tehran’s actions in the Persian Gulf, Votel said that he has not seen any change in Iran’s behavior, which "remains a concern."
The general added that Iran is trying to project power in the Middle East and assert its role as a regional power.
"What I see is this is principally the regime leadership trying to exert their influence and authority in the region, and they are trying to do it in provocative ways that are unsafe, unprofessional, and really, I think, work against their objectives in the long term here."
Votel pointed out that an overwhelming majority of Iran’s dangerous actions in the Persian Gulf are not conducted by its regular navy, but by the Revolutionary Guards’ naval force.