In three separate incidents this week, Iranian Naval vessels harassed US Navy ships in confrontations that could easily have escalated. On Wednesday, a US Navy vessel on patrol in the Persian Gulf fired three warning shots at an Iranian small craft that charged to within 200 yards.
Commander William Urban, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet made a statement to the press saying that the USS Squall and the USS Tempest were participating in an exercise with a Kuwaiti patrol boat in the northern Persian Gulf. The three vessels were travelling in formation when they were approached by a Naser-class Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy water craft at high speed. The USS Tempest fired flares as a warning made radio contact, but the Iranian vessel continued its approach.
The Iranian boat came at the USS Tempest head-on, and the US vessel was forced to change its course to avoid collision. The USS Squall fired the three warning shots from their 50-caliber gun into the water just ahead of the approaching Iranian craft, at which point the Iranians turned and left.
Earlier in the day, the Squall and Tempest encountered three other small Iranian boats that ran in front of them three times, coming as close as 600 yards. In this encounter, the Iranian vessels ignored warning flares and whistles used by the crew of the Tempest to warn them to change course.
This incident comes after another close encounter on Tuesday when four Iranian craft “harassed” a US destroyer near the Strait of Hormuz, according to US officials.
“Four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels harassed the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) by conducting a high-speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze despite repeated warnings as Nitze transited international waters in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz Aug. 23,” a defense official said.
The crew of the Nitze fired flares and sounded the ship’s horn to warn the small craft, but they continued to approach the ship from the side.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Gen. Hosein Dehghan as saying Thursday that “if any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it’s an invasion, we confront.” He added that Iranian boats patrol to monitor traffic and foreign vessels in its territorial waters.
Naval confrontations have become increasingly common between the US and Iran. In December, Iranian ships fired rockets near a US warship and other vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
In January, Iran took ten US sailors captive after two small US patrol boats strayed into Iranian waters and developed mechanical difficulties. The sailors were soon released, but the Iranians declared it a victory.
Also in January, the Iranian navy flew an unarmed drone over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.