Seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast attack craft approached the USS Firebolt coastal patrol ship while it was operating in international waters.
WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – A U.S. Navy warship was forced to change course after seven Iranian fast attack boats swarmed it Sunday in the central Persian Gulf, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday, marking the latest provocative run-in between the nations in the region.
During the incident, seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) fast attack craft approached the USS Firebolt coastal patrol ship while it was operating in international waters, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.
Three of the IRGC boats “maneuvered close to the ship, shadowing her course from a range of about 500 yards,” Davis said. The boats “eventually broke off” and “one of the remaining boats turned towards to USS Firebolt and came to a stop directly in front of the ship.”
“This caused the Firebolt to have to maneuver to avoid collision. They came within about 100 yards of one another,” Davis said, including that the Firebolt had attempted to radio the boats to no reply.
“This is another example of another unsafe and unprofessional interaction we’ve had with the IRGCN in the Gulf,” he said.
It was at least the fifth time in the last two weeks IRGCN boats “harassed” U.S. ships in the Arabian Gulf. There have been 31 similar interactions with Iranian ships this year, nearly double the from the same period last year, an unnamed defense official told Reuters.
In one case, the USS Squall fired three warning shots into the water after IRGCN vessels did not respond to radio calls or warning flares, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.
The U.S. commander overseeing the Middle East, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, said last week that about 90 percent of the “unsafe, unprofessional activities” were carried out by by the IRGCN — a sect of the armed forces controlled by hard-line, anti-American clerics closely affiliated with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“This is clearly a pattern, and it’s one we’re not happy about, and we’d like to see this sort of behavior stop,” Davis said.
Davis said there was no weapons fire exchanged between the U.S. and the Iranians, adding that the Iranian boats were armed.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said he could not say whether or not Secretary of State John Kerry will raise the issue with his counterpart Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari.
“I don’t know when he’s planning next to talk to – speak with Foreign Minister Zarif. I can’t exclude that it won’t be a topic of conversation put within the larger context that we want to see and we believe that Iran has an opportunity to change its behavior and play a more constructive role in the region. We never – I don’t think we ever said anything other than that they have an opportunity to do so, and we’ve never said that they necessarily are,” Kirby said.
After 10 U.S. sailors were detained when they strayed into Iranian waters in January, the Obama administration praised their quick release the next day as evidence that the Iran nuclear accord had opened up diplomatic communication channels.
“This is, in my view, is not about the Iranian people,” Votel said last week. “It’s about the Iranian regime and their desire to continue to do these types of things that stoke instability or attempt to stoke instability in the region.”
He warned that miscalculations could lead to an “international incident.”
“If they continue to test us, we are going to respond, and we are going to protect ourselves and our partners,” Votel said. “Ultimately, we will prevail here. I’m very, very confident of that, and we certainly don’t want that to come to pass, and that’s why I call on them to act in the professional manner that they espouse to act, particularly in international waters.”
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan said his nation has the right to investigate or confront foreign vessels near its shoreline.