WASHINGTON–A US Coast Guard cutter fired warning shots at armed speedboats of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that made “unsafe and unprofessional” high-speed manoeuvres toward US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday.
The Pentagon said the US warship fired about 30 warning shots after 13 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and other American Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
It was the second time in two weeks that a US warship has opened fire to warn vessels of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. These encounters come as the United States and Iran are in indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the United States left in 2018.
Asked whether it appeared the Revolutionary Guard are trying to pick a fight with the US Navy, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to comment on the Iranians’ intentions.
“Sadly, harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon. It is something that all of our commanding officers and the crews of our vessels are trained for,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “This is the kind of activity that could lead to somebody getting hurt and could lead to a real miscalculation there in the region and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interests.”
On April 26, an American warship fired warning shots when vessels of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard came too close to a patrol in the Gulf. That was the first such shooting in nearly four years. The Navy released black-and-white footage of that encounter in international waters of the northern reaches of the Gulf near Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In the latest incident, Kirby said 13 Iranian vessels manoeuvred at high speed toward six Navy ships that were escorting the guided missile submarine USS Georgia through the Strait on Monday. The sub was sailing on the surface. The six Navy escort ships included the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey. A day earlier, the Monterey had intercepted an arms shipment aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea apparently headed for Yemen, whose Houthi rebels are supported by Iran.
“They were acting very aggressively,” Kirby said of the Iranian boats.
At one point, two of the Iranian craft broke away from the others and positioned themselves on the other side of the US ship formation. The two then sped toward some of the US ships. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, US crews issued multiple warnings to both groups of Iranian boats, including repeated bridge-to-bridge verbal warnings, said Navy Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Navy 5th Fleet spokeswoman.
After the two Iranian boats failed to respond to the multiple warnings and closed to within 300 yards, the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired a volley of warning shots from its .50-calibre machine gun. It fired another volley when the Iranian boats got within 150 yards.
The two Iranian craft then “altered course and increased their distance from the US forces,” Rebarich said.