Iran: A new naval confrontation with US ships in the gulf

Iran: A new naval confrontation with US ships in the gulf
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72)

A US naval destroyer has fired multiple warning shots at Iranian patrol boats near the entrance of the Gulf, in a new incident that may hint to the tension between the both forces.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats allegedly opened fire at the USS Mahan on Sunday, which was passing through the Strait of Hormuz, when they sped towards it.

The U.S. Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.

“This was an unsafe and unprofessional interaction, and that is due to the fact that they were approaching at a high level of speed with weapons manned and disregarding repeated warnings,” Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a briefing.

The warning shots were fired at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats by the USS Mahan after it established radio contact but failed to get them to slow down, Davis said, confirming earlier accounts of U.S. defense officials.

Those officials said the Iranian vessels came within 900 yards (800 meters) of the Navy destroyer, which was escorting two other U.S. military ships.

The Mahan also fired flares and a U.S. Navy helicopter also dropped a smoke float before the warning shots, they said.

The US navy occasionally has confrontations with Iranian naval forces in the Gulf, but do not usually reach the point of prompting warning shots.

The one official added that the warning shots fired on Sunday were just one of seven interactions the Mahan had with Iranian vessels over the weekend, but the others were judged to be safe.

confrontations with US Navy increases

2016 witnessed numerous confrontation incidents between the Iranianian and the US naval powers.

Most recently in August, another U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots toward an Iranian fast-attack craft that approached two U.S. ships.

In this incident, US naval ships in the northern Arabic Gulf were harassed by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel, which came within 200 yards of the US ships. Following standard maritime procedures, the USS Squall fired three warning shots to ensure the Iranians understood they needed to leave the immediate area.

There have been 31 unsafe America encounters with Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf in 2016 until September, up from 23 in all of 2015, the official said.

US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of US Central Command, last week called the Iranian conduct “concerning.”

“In recent days, we have witnessed even more provocative activity by the IRGC and Navy vessels. That type of behavior is very concerning, and we hope to see Iran’s naval forces act in a more professional manner,” he said.

Votel believes the “unsafe, unprofessional” behavior is an attempt by Iran to “exert their influence and authority in the region.”

The White House said the Iranian vessels had behaved in an unacceptable manner and that such incidents risked increasing tensions.

“At this point the United States does not know what the intentions of the Iranian vessels were, but the behavior is not acceptable given that the USS Mahan was operating in international waters,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press conference on Monday.