US warship fires warning shot at Iranian vessel in Persian Gulf

UPDATE — 7/30, 10:25 a.m. EDT: A second confrontation between the U.S. Navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in international Persian Gulf waters occurred on Friday, after IRGC aimed their vessels on a high-velocity path at American boats before veering off when warning flares were fired by a U.S. helicopter.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, however, U.S. ships had initially come too close IRGC patrol boats which were protecting an Iranian oil-and-gas field.

Iran later said warnings fired by the U.S. on IRGC boats were “provocative and unprofessional” .

 

Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, a U.S. patrol boat fired a series of warning shots at an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) gunboat in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.

Part of a small flotilla which involved Kuwaiti and Iraqi naval vessels, the USS Thunderbolt was escorting the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf on routine patrol in the north Gulf.  The ships serve with the Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain.

According to U.S. Navy officials, the IRGC ship approached the small group at a high rate of speed and refused to respond to attempts to establish radio contact, warning flares and danger signals.  Following the refusal to respond, the Thunderbolt fired a volley from a heavy gun into the water as a warning.

Once the Thunderbolt fired live ammunition in the direction of the IRGC ship, at one point reaching as close as 150 yards, the vessel stopped its approach.

Navy officials also stated the IRGC ship was armed, but the weapons were not manned at the time of the encounter.

“An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessel conducted an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with a U.S. Navy ship during a coalition exercise in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf, July 25.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,” read part of the Navy’s statement on the incident.

Iran released its own version of events in a statement which described American behavior as “provocative.”

This is the fourth incident between Iranian and American warships since January.  In June, the last incident, an Iranian warship approached a group of American vessels in the dead of night and harassed the ships with searchlights and a laser.

 

[Reuters] [USNI News] [Wall Street Journal] [RT/YouTube] [Photo courtesy U.S. Navy/USNI.org]