Defense

US Navy fired warning shots at Iranian vessels Monday evening

Three Iranian ships harassed U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels on Monday in the Persian Gulf, drawing so close at one point the Americans fired warning shots, the Navy revealed Tuesday.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) boats crossed the two U.S. ships at "an unnecessarily close range" in the second such interaction between the U.S. and Iran in the region this month. The Navy earlier on Tuesday revealed a similar incident that took place on April 2.

In the April 26 incident, three IRGCN fast inshore attack craft "failed to exercise due regard for the safety of other vessels as required under international law as they came into close proximity to U.S. naval vessels in international waters of the north Arabian Gulf," the U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement.

The Iranian armed speed boats rapidly approached U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt and U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof, coming within 68 yards of both U.S. ships.

The two American crews - who were conducting routine maritime security operations in international waters at the time - issued multiple radio warnings and loud-hailer devices, but the Iranian ships continued their maneuvers.

"The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels," according to the statement.

"The IRGCN's actions increased the risk of miscalculation and/or collision" and were not in accordance with internationally recognized maritime customs, the Navy stated. 

This is the second incident in April involving Iranian ships harassing U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf and the first such confrontations in a year.

On April 2, three Revolutionary Guard ships provoked two U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats over three hours, repeatedly crossing in front of their bows at "extremely close range," according to the Navy. 

The earlier incident, which the Navy described as "unsafe and unprofessional," was not disclosed until Tuesday. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later on Tuesday downplayed the delay in information.

"There's no pressure from anyone in the administration to meter up or meter down communications activities regarding these sorts of incidents," Kirby said when asked if the U.S. military was withholding information about the confrontations to avoid stalling diplomatic talks.

The incident happened days before the Biden administration was to begin indirect talks with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement, set for Tuesday in Vienna. Former President Trump pulled the United States from the pact, after which Tehran resumed the development of its nuclear program. 

"We obviously don't want to see miscalculation, and these kind of events could spiral into miscalculation, and that's not good for anyone in the region," Kirby said.

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