DUBAI: A US warship fired warning shots when Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard ships got too close to a patrol in the Persian Gulf, the US Navy said on Wednesday. It was the first such shoot in almost four years.
The Navy released black-and-white footage of the meeting Monday night in international waters in the northern Persian Gulf, near Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In this one, lights can be seen in the distance and what appears to be a single gunshot can be heard, with a tracer ring running across the top of the water.
Iran did not immediately recognize the incident.
The Navy said the Cyclone-class patrol vessel USS Firebolt fired the warning shots after three fast-attacking Guard ships approached within 68 meters (62 meters) of it and the boat. US Coast Guard patrol USCGC Baranoff.
“The US crews issued multiple deck-to-deck radio warnings and megaphones, but the (Guard) ships continued to maneuver at close range,” said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, spokesperson for the 5th Fleet based in the Middle East. “The Firebolt crew then fired warning shots and the (Guard) ships moved away to a safe distance from the US ships.
She called on the Guard to “act with due regard for the safety of all ships, as required by international law”.
“The US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanders retain the inherent right to act in self-defense,” she said.
The last time a Navy ship fired warning shots in the Persian Gulf in an incident involving Iran was in July 2017, when the USS Thunderbolt, a sister ship to the Firebolt, flew in fired to warn a Guard vessel. Regulations issued last year give naval commanders the power to take “legal defensive action” against Middle Eastern ships that are within 100 meters (yards) of their warships.
While 100 yards might seem like a distance to someone standing at a distance, it’s incredibly close for large warships that have a hard time turning around quickly, like aircraft carriers. Even the smallest ships can collide with each other at sea, putting ships at risk.
Monday’s incident marked the second time the Navy has accused the guard of operating in a “dangerous and unprofessional” manner just this month after tense clashes between the forces have abated in recent years.
Images released by the Navy on Tuesday showed a Guard-ordered vessel cut in front of USCGC Monomoy, causing the Coast Guard vessel to abruptly stop with its engine smoking on April 2.
The Guard also did the same with another Coast Guard vessel, USCGC Wrangell, Rebarich said.
The interaction marked the first “dangerous and unprofessional” incident involving the Iranians since April 15, 2020, Rebarich said. However, Iran had largely ended such incidents in 2018 and most of 2019, she said.
In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 cases of what it describes as “dangerous and / or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces. He recorded 35 in 2016 and 23 in 2015.
Incidents at sea almost always involve the Revolutionary Guards, who report only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Typically, these are Iranian speedboats armed with deck-mounted machine guns and rocket launchers that test weapons or observe US aircraft carriers crossing the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf by which 20% of all oil passes.
Some analysts believe the incidents are in part aimed at squeezing President Hassan Rouhani’s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal. They include a 2016 incident in which Iranian forces captured and detained 10 US sailors overnight. are lost in the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic.
The incident comes as Iran is negotiating with world powers in Vienna over Tehran and Washington to revert to the 2015 nuclear deal. It also follows a string of incidents across the Middle East attributed to a shadow war between Iran and Israel, which includes attacks on regional shipping and the sabotage of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.