Unnamed officials in the U.S. Department of Defense have told Reuters that a number of vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) harassed the patrol boat USS Firebolt over the weekend. Despite signing a nuclear deal to delay the country’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, tensions between the two nations remain high and the incident over the weekend was just the latest in provocations from the Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz.
The United States has made it quite clear that its Navy has everyright to be sailing in the Strait of Hormuz and that it’s vessels are free to protect themselves. The latest incident saw seven Iranian fast boats take a course that had them coming head on with the USS Firebolt with one of the seven coming a mere 100 yards (91 meters) from the ship forcing it to alter its course.
The USS Firebolt, a patrol craft, was operating in international waters in the central Arabian Gulf, was approached by seven fast-attack craft from Iran,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said at a press conference today
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“Three of them maneuvered close to the ship, shadowing her course from a range of about 500 yards,” he said. “They eventually broke off. One of the remaining boats turned towards the USS Firebolt and came to a stop directly in front of the ship. This caused the Firebolt to have to maneuver to avoid a collision they came within about 100 yards of each other.
“During the interaction, the Firebolt attempted multiple radio communications with the Iranians” that went unheeded, said Davis. “This is another example of an unsafe and unprofessional interaction we’ve had with the IRGCN in the Gulf.”
“This is clearly a pattern and it’s one we’re not happy about. And we would like this sort of behavior stop,” he continued.
According to the unnamed officials that spoke with Reuters, the growing number of these incidents are “unsafe and unprofessional due to lack of communications and the close-range harassing maneuvering.” It’s believed that this is the 31st occasion where the countries’ navies got a little too close for comfort including an incident in late August that saw the USS Squall fire warning shots from a .50 caliber gun.
On August 30, General Joe Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, confirmed to reporters that the USS Squall fired three warning shots at an Iranian fast boat as it neared the patrol ship that was sailing along with the USS Tempest.
“In recent days, we have witnessed even more provocative activity by the IRGC and navy vessels,” Votel said.
“That type of behavior is very concerning, and we hope to see Iran’s naval forces act in a more professional manner.”
The general pointed out that nearly all incidents between the two navies involve the Quds specials forces from the IRGC.
“I am concerned about rogue commanders, rogue Iranian Quds force naval commanders who are operating in a provocative manner and are trying to test us,” he said.
The shots were fired to warn the boat when it came within 200 yards of the USS Squall. At the end of the day, this is pure provocation and the boats in question pose no real danger to the much heavier armed boats of the U.S. Navy.
“I am concerned about rogue commanders, rogue Iranian Quds force naval commanders who are operating in a provocative manner and are trying to test us,” said the general.
“What we see with the Iranians is not particularly responsible. It is provocative, in some cases; it’s unsafe,” Votel said.
“And it can lead to situations where we may not be able to de-escalate in a time before something happens.”