A US-Iran confrontation in the Persian Gulf earlier this month kicked off due to the US Navy’s unauthorised presence during Iran’s planned military drills, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official has said.

IRGC naval commander Alireza Tangsiri told local media that the US forces were an “illegitimate presence” at the planned military maneuvers, “so they were ordered to leave.”

Responding to US accusations that the IRGC fleet provoked the confrontation by acting in a “harassing” manner towards US ships, Tangsiri said that “the Persian Gulf region is our home and we are not looking for a fire in our house.”

The US has said it maintains a naval presence in the region to carry out patrols of crucial shipping routes, and claimed that the recent encounter was sparked by Iran, whose speedboats buzzed the US Navy ships in a “dangerous and provocative” manner. The accusation has been dismissed by Iran as an indication that “the Americans are interested in Hollywood scenarios.”

Already-poor relations between the two countries have been particularly tense in recent months, following the US assassination of top Iranian major-general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike at the start of this year. The killing triggered retaliations from Tehran in the form of missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops.

US President Donald Trump added further fuel to the fire by threatening to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats, with the IRGC hitting back with similar threats. 

The US has also imposed a spate of sanctions on Iran, which Tehran, as well as the UN and humanitarian agencies, say is undermining the country’s healthcare system and its ability to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

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