U.S. Navy Fires Warning Shots After Iran Provokes ‘Unsafe’ Encounter in Persian Gulf

This video grab still image obtained July 25, 2017, courtesy of the US Navy, shows an IRGCN boat heading towards the USS Thunderbolt in the Gulf. A US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel in the Persian Gulf July 25, 2017 after it …
Handout / US NAVY / AFP

An Iranian vessel approached a U.S. Navy ship in an aggressive and unsafe manner on Tuesday, ignoring all attempts to communicate and forcing the Navy ship to fire warning shots.

USNI News reports the Iranian craft came within 150 yards of the USS Thunderbolt, a coastal patrol ship that was operating along with two Coast Guard cutters and a U.S. Army logistics vessel in the Persian Gulf.

These ships were acting as a defensive screen around the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf in a training exercise when the Iranian patrol boat approached their formation.

“The Iranian vessel did not respond to repeated attempts to establish radio communications as it approached. Thunderbolt then fired warning flares and sounded the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts on the ship’s whistle, but the Iranian vessel continued inbound,” said the U.S. Fifth Fleet in a statement about the incident.

“As the Iranian vessel proceeded toward the U.S. ship, Thunderbolt again sounded five short blasts prior to firing warning shots in front of the Iranian vessel. After the warning shots were fired, the Iranian vessel halted its unsafe approach,” the statement continued. “The Iranian vessel’s actions were not in accordance with the internationally recognized COLREGs ‘rules of the road’ nor internationally recognized maritime customs, creating a risk for collision.”

According to the USNI News report, Iraqi and Kuwaiti naval assets were “operating nearby but were not involved in the encounter.” Two Iraqi offshore oil terminals are also located in the vicinity, but the Navy did not specify how close they are to the scene of the encounter.

Reuters notes this is the first time the U.S. Navy has fired warning shots at Iranian craft since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, although there have been several other harassing encounters that were resolved without shots being fired.

Reuters quotes a U.S. official who said the Iranian vessel was armed and apparently belonged to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is responsible for most aggressive Iranian behavior on the high seas. The official said the Iranian craft was armed, but its weapons were unmanned during the encounter.

Another defense official told the Associated Press that the Iranian boat went “dead in the water” after the warning shots were fired, and “the vessels all left the area without further incident.” This official characterized the day’s events as a “tense encounter.”

The AP quotes officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard claiming the Thunderbolt caused the incident by moving toward the Iranian patrol craft and shooting into the air “with the intention to provoke and create fear.”

Strangely, Reuters claims that animosity between Iran and the U.S. was “eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year as part of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” having apparently forgotten about Iran’s kidnapping of American soldiers on the very eve of the nuclear deal’s signature, the wanton violations of international law it perpetrated against the prisoners, and Iran’s subsequent recreation of that incident for the amusement of its citizens at parades.

For that matter, Reuters’ writers seemingly forgot to read the last paragraph of their own report, which mentions a January incident in which an American destroyer had to fire warning shots at a swarm of Iranian fast-attack vessels in the Straits of Hormuz. This occurred during the final days of the allegedly tension-relieving President Barack Obama’s term, long after his nuclear deal was signed.


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