U.S. Navy Video Shows Iranian Warship Firing near Coalition Vessels in Gulf

U.S. Navy/AP/screenshot

The U.S. Navy has reportedly released a video in an effort to show beyond a doubt that an Iranian warship launched a rocket in close proximity of a U.S. aircraft carrier and French frigate in the Strait of Hormuz last month while other commercial ships were navigating close by.

Iran’s launch, which has been deemed a test, occurred Dec. 26 and was carried out in the Strait of Hormuz, considered a busy waterway for trade, particularly oil.

“The U.S. Navy on Saturday released footage it said showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels firing rockets near warships and commercial traffic in the strategic Strait of Hormuz late last month, a move raising tensions between the two nations despite the recent nuclear deal,” reports the Associated Press (AP).

“The Navy said it released the footage in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, though it also comes as U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has cut ties to the Islamic Republic following attacks on diplomatic posts there after the kingdom’s execution of a Shiite cleric,” it adds.

At the time of the test, two U.S. ships—the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and the USS Bulkeley destroyer—were operating in the area, as well as a French frigate and commercial vessels, explained Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), following the incident.

The Iranian military reportedly announced the test less than half an hour prior to the rocket’s launch. During the test, the Iranian vessels fired “several unguided rockets” just 1,500 yards away from the U.S. ships, the CENTCOM spokesman said.

“Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law,” said the U.S. Navy commander.

“U.S. Navy forces are committed to ensuring the safe and free navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and throughout the region by maintaining a strong presence,” added Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet. “While most interactions between Iranian forces and the U.S. Navy are professional, safe and routine, this event was not and runs contrary to efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and maritime safety in the global commons.”

AP notes that the video released by the Navy was black-and-white, about 45 seconds, and shot from a Seahawk helicopter.

It “shows what appears to be an oil tanker passing by,” declares AP. “A flash appears on the left side of the video and after zooming in, it shows small boats the Navy said were Iranian firing rockets.”

Prior to the video’s release, Gen. Ramezan Sharif, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard spokesman, denied that his forces had carried out any drills there at that time and dismissed the U.S. comments “psychological warfare.”

Iran has not publicly responded to the video’s release.

“Military vessels taking part in the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria also pass through the strait, a narrow waterway between Iran and Oman,” notes AP. “The U.S. Navy previously said Iran gave 23-minutes warning over maritime radio before opening fire with unguided rockets.”

“The Strait of Hormuz is only about 33 kilometers (21 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Ships traversing the chokepoint have even less room to maneuver,” it adds. “The shipping lane in either direction is only 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) wide, with a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) buffer zone between them.”

Iran and six U.S.-led world powers signed a nuclear deal in July 2015.

“Western forces hoped the regime could utilize the agreement to re-engage with the world, but since then, Iran has conducted illegal ballistic missile tests, and continues to aid and arm terrorist organizations worldwide,” notes Breitbart News.

“The deal reached with moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been panned by Iranian hard-liners, and in the months since, Iran has conducted missile tests criticized by the U.S., as well as aired footage on state television of an underground missile base,” adds AP. “In recent days, regional tensions have been escalated even higher as Iran and Saudi Arabia face off after the execution of [Prominent Shiite Cleric] Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and the storming of the kingdom’s diplomatic posts in Iran.”