On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy patrol boat in the Northern Persian Gulf fired warning shots at an Iranian military vessel that approached it at high speed.
According to defense officials, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessel approached the USS Thunderbolt, the USS Vella Gulf and two other U.S. ships as they were conducting routine exercises.
The Iranian vessel did not respond to radio calls, fire of flares or five short blasts, which is the internationally recognized communications signal for danger.
With the vessel coming as close as 150 yards, the Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship based in Bahrain, fired several warning shots into the water.
The vessel initially did not have its guns manned or uncovered. After warning shots were fired, the vessel stopped and uncovered its guns but did not man them. It then stayed in the area for several hours.
In response to the incident, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps released a statement via state new agency Fars. It stated that the vessel was “on routine patrol in the Persian gulf when the American vessel came along side it and fired warning shots, the Iranian boat carried on course with its patrol and that the action of the Americans was extremely unprofessional.”
However, this is not the first time the U.S. Navy and the Iranian military have had a rocky encounter.
In 2015, the U.S. Navy recorded 23 instances of “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces. This number jumped to 35 in 2016.
Also in 2016, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard captured 10 U.S. sailors, whose two small riverine command boats had strayed into Saudi and Iranian waters.
Iranian military videotaped the sailors “acting happy” under orders, holding them overnight before releasing them. The Iranian government soon released the tapes.
Through its investigation the Navy found that the captured sailors had inappropriately given the Iranians sensitive information, including passwords and operational capabilities.
Calling it a “calamity of errors,” defense officials blamed poor planning, command failures and complacency for the incident, as well as systematic shortcomings in naval training.
The sailors’ captain and commander were immediately fired, and further disciplinary action was taken against the sailors involved.
Nonetheless, Adm. John Richardson, the chief of U.S. naval operations, accused Iran of violating international law by “impeding the boats’ innocent passage transit.”
As for incidents in 2017, five Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan and two other U.S. ships that were entering the Strait of Hormuz in January, leading the Mahan to fire warning shots.
In April, the U.S. accused Iran of acting in an “unprofessional and provocative” manner when an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ship approached the USS Mahan in the Persian Gulf. The ship had its weapons manned and came within 1,000 yards of the U.S. vessel. However, the Mahan did not fire warning shots.
The U.S. military also criticized Iran for training a laser on a U.S. helicopter that was accompanying a formation of American ships sailing the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz in June.
Despite these incidents, the number of “unsafe and unprofessional” encounters with Iran this year is “way below” the number that occurred by the same point in 2016, according to a U.S. official.
Featured image Wikimedia Commons
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