TEHRAN, Aug 27
Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying support had been deployed “to provide security for Islamic Republic vessels in international waters”. He said the destroyer Sahand, which was inducted into the Islamic Republic’s navy last year, was on its maiden overseas mission.
Admiral Sayyari said the heavily-armed vessel would safeguard Iranian ships in the Sea of Oman and the Gulf of Aden.
Tehran’s state-run media said the Sahand was equipped with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sophisticated radar-evading technology but it has never been seen in action and its capabilities cannot be independently verified.
Its deployment alongside logistical support vessel Kharg comes amid sky-high tensions between the US and Iran over the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and the re-imposition of economic sanctions.
The US has boosted its military presence in the region in response to what it called indications of a “credible threat” by Iranian regime forces.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has accused the US of “harassing” ships in international waters “and preventing freedom of navigation”.
Mr Zarif warned a ramped-up Western naval presence in the Gulf increased the risk of accidents which analysts say could spark a wider confrontation.
He said: “We do not seek military confrontation.
“But it is clear bringing naval vessels to the Persian Gulf will not increase security but the possibility of accidents and incidents.”
Growing friction in the troubled region has seen attacks on ships cross the Strait of Hormuz, drones shot down and oil tankers seized.
Iran has seized three foreign ships including the British-flagged Stena Impero while an Iranian tanker suspected of illegally transporting oil to Syria was raided by Royal Marines commandoes off Gibraltar.
Iran insisted the oil was not bound for Syria and Gibraltar eventually signed off the tanker’s release.
The US filed a petition in the British territory’s Supreme Court in an attempt to re-seize the vessel but the legal bid was denied and the ship was released on the condition it did not head for Syria.
An Iranian official said the ship’s 2.1 million barrels of oil, valued at approximately $130 million had now been sold to an “unnamed buyer”.
The ship was renamed the Adrian Darya set sail for Turkey but has changed its destination. It is now heading east across the Mediterranean.