Speaking at a press briefing today, Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel claimed an “uptick in confrontations by Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf,” insisting that US Naval forces operating off the coast of Iran are prepared to “defend themselves” and “improve stability and security in the region.”
This comes after two minor incidents in which Iran sent speedboats out into visual range of US warships parked off the Iranian coast. In one of the two incidents, the US warship fired “warning shots” at the Iranian speedboat, and the US issued public complaints.
Gen. Votel’s comments are largely a continuation of the complaints, but a lot of the resultant attention is likely to be in Gen. Votel referring to the Persian Gulf as “the Arabian Gulf” in a public press conference, as officially the United States still recognizes the historical name.
That is not to say it is unprecedented. Several US allies in the region, Arab states, prefer to call it he Arabian Gulf, and there have been military directives instructing US troops to use that term when deployed in the area. It is not, however, generally used in public statements, and Votel was at the Pentagon when making these comments, not deployed to Bahrain.
Persian Gulf is used almost exclusively in the Western world, and indeed has been for many centuries, and the Arabian Gulf only really began to have any momentum in the 1960s. Some US officials have tried to split the difference by simply referring to it as “the Gulf.”