MANAMA, Bahrain, Aug. 26 (UPI) — A U.S. Navy patrol ship in the Persian Gulf fired warning shots at approaching Iranian boats in the second incident this week, U.S. military officials said.
Three Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels approached the patrol ships USS Squall and USS Tempest at high speed in the northern Persian Gulf Wednesday; later in the day, a single Iranian ship came within 200 yards of the Tempest, which shot flares and used a loudspeaker to communicate.
The Iranian ship departed after the Tempest fired three shots from its .50-caliber machine gun into the water, U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet spokesman William Urban said.
Urban added the same Iranian ship which approached the Tempest later crossed the bow, or sailed through the path of, the guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, three times.
The incidents came the day after Iranian ships made similar hostile maneuvers around the destroyer USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz, and came within 300 yards of the U.S. ship.
Referring to Wednesday’s encounters, in which no injuries were reported, U.S. Defense Department Press Secretary Peter Cook commented Thursday, “The onus here is on the Iranians to conduct themselves in a sage and professional manner, like navies all over the world do, and in this instance and the instance the other day with the Nitze, in the view of the crew, that did not happen.”
“These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation. And we certainly don’t desire any escalation, any sort of confrontation there. Our ships are operating as they have for years in that part of the world, in international waters, and will continue to do so. And there is no need for this kind of, if you will, unprofessional behavior. It does not serve any purpose. We’re going to continue to operate. And we’re going to continue to take the steps that we need to do to make sure that our sailors and our ships are as safe as possible as they conduct their operation.”
U.S. and Iranian navies in the Persian Gulf have long eyed each other warily, despite diplomatic efforts between the two countries. Crews of U.S. boats were detained in January after their vessels veered into Iranian waters.