Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has needled Washington once again by recalling Middle Eastern toponymy in a recent speech to his cabinet, local media reported on Wednesday.
“The Americans should know that this waterway is called ‘the Persian Gulf.’ It is not called ‘the New York Gulf’ or ‘the Washington Gulf,’” he told a cabinet session earlier in the day. The US should take into account “both its name and the nation that has preserved it for thousands of years,” Rouhani asvised.
The President’s sarcastic comments almost coincided with bellicose remarks by Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, senior spokesperson for Iran’s military.
Even the slightest infringement against Iranian interests in the Gulf will cause the US to pay a price, the general exclaimed. The Americans “have certainly experienced this [in the past] that they will receive a harder slap than before,” he threatened.
The Iranian general then took aim at President Donald Trump’s recent warning that his forces would destroy Iranian gunboats if they “harass” American ships in the Persian Gulf. The US commander-in-chief’s escapade, he suggested, was nothing but “psychological warfare” intended to win voter support.
Iran, which occupies the eastern shores of the Persian Gulf and overlooks the strategic Strait of Hormuz –a hugely important passageway for oil tankers and merchant shipping– has long insisted the United States does not belong in the region.
The troubled waters saw another flare-up of tensions last week, when the US Fifth Fleet accused the Iranian Navy of carrying out “dangerous and provocative” maneuvers at close range that put US vessels at risk. A video record of the standoff, however, wasn’t as dramatic as the US Navy statement had suggested.
The US and Iranian navies have faced off against each other multiple times in recent years, both employing coercive tactics but always stopping short of military confrontation.