American warships fire warning shots at Iranian gunboats in Persian Gulf on Monday for first time in nearly four years ‘after Iran menaced US vessels’
- US gunboats fired warning shots at three Iranian vessels in Gulf on Monday
- Move was in response to what US called ‘close range maneuvers’ by Iran Navy
- After shots fired, Iran vessels ‘moved away to a safe distance from US vessels’
- On Monday, US accused Iranian navy of ‘unsafe and unprofessional interaction’
- Tense encounter took place in international waters in the Persian Gulf on April 2
- Iranian Revolutionary Guard ship cut across the bows of two USCG vessels
- US Navy calls the incident an ‘unsafe and unprofessional interaction’
A US military ship fired warning shots after three vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and another American patrol boat in the Gulf, the United States military said on Tuesday.
‘The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close range maneuvers,’ the military statement said.
‘The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the US vessels,’ the statement added, using the name for the US Navy patrol ship.
Earlier this month, the Navy said that an Iranian warship repeatedly crossed the bows of US military vessels in international waters in an ‘unsafe and unprofessional interaction.’
The USS Nimitz (front) and the guided missile-cruiser USS Philippine Sea are seen in the Strait of Hormuz in this September file photo
The tense encounter in the Persian Gulf on April 2 was the first such incident in about a year amid wider turmoil in the region over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal.
Images released by the Navy showed a ship commanded by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard cut in front of the USCGC Monomoy, causing the Coast Guard vessel to come to an abrupt stop with its engine smoking on April 2.
The Iranian ship, Harth 55, also did the same with another Coast Guard vessel, the USCGC Wrangell, said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident, which resulted in no injuries or damage.
‘The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships´ horns, and while the Harth 55 responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, they continued the unsafe maneuvers,’ Rebarich said.
Iranian ship Harth 55 is seen cutting across the bow of the USCGC Wrangell in the Persian Gulf on April 2, the first such encounter in nearly a year
‘After approximately three hour of the U.S. issuing warning and conducting defensive maneuvers, the (Iranian) vessels maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them.’
The interaction marked the first ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ incident involving the Iranians since April 15, 2020, Rebarich said.
However, Iran had largely stopped such incidents in 2018 and nearly in the entirety of 2019, she said.
In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 instances of what it describes as ‘unsafe and or unprofessional’ interactions with Iranians forces. It recorded 35 in 2016, and 23 in 2015.
The incidents at sea almost always involve the Revolutionary Guard, which reports only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Some analysts believe the incidents are meant in part to squeeze moderate President Hassan Rouhani´s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident, which resulted in no injuries or damage
They include a 2016 incident in which Iranian forces captured and held overnight 10 US sailors who strayed into the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters.
The incident comes as Iran negotiates with world powers in Vienna over Tehran and Washington returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.
It also follows a series of incidents across the Mideast attributed to a shadow war between Iran and Israel, which includes attacks on regional shipping and sabotage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.