US Navy ship fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

James Marshall
April 28, 2021

Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees U.S. Naval operations in the Middle East.

"The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices", a statement from the US Fifth Fleet said.

An Iranian coast guard vessel crosses the bow of a US Navy cutter in an April 2 encounter in the Persian Gulf.

The Navy said the incident occurred April 2 when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessel Harth 55 and three accompanying fast attack craft approached the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Monomoy (WPB 1326) during routine maritime security patrols.

'The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the US vessels, ' the statement added, using the name for the US Navy patrol ship.

Earlier in the day, Naval officials released images of FIAC boats engaging with other Navy ships in the Persian Gulf, in what security spokesmen described as "unsafe and unprofessional" maneuvers.

The crew of the Harth responded to bridge-to-bridge radio warnings from the American vessels but "they continued the unsafe maneuvers", Rebarich said. In addition, the actions of the Iranian ships ignored internationally recognise maritime customs and global regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

The USCGC ships are assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the largest U.S. Coast Guard unit outside the United States, and operate under U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's Task Force 55.

However, Iran had largely stopped such incidents in 2018 and throughout most of 2019, she said.

The incidents at sea nearly always involve the Revolutionary Guard, which reports only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech marking the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, Iran, March 21, 2021. Typically, they involve Iranian speedboats armed with deck-mounted machine guns and rocket launchers test-firing weapons or shadowing American aircraft carriers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.

Some analysts believe the incidents are meant in part to squeeze President Hassan Rouhani's administration after the 2015 nuclear deal. They include a 2016 incident in which Iranian forces captured and held overnight 10 USA sailors who strayed into the Islamic Republic's territorial waters.

The Iranian boats' actions "increased the risk of miscalculation and/or collision", the Fifth Fleet said, accusing the vessels of failing to abide by global maritime regulations on preventing collisions.

In this Handout photo made available by the EU delegation in Vienna shows Diplomats of the EU, China, Russia and Iran at the start of talks at the Grand Hotel in Vienna on April 6, 2021.

The confrontations came amid talks in Vienna between Iran and major powers on the mechanics of a U.S. return to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by then president Donald Trump.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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