TEHRAN – Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday rejected the U.S. Navy's claim that fast-approaching Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz sparked a tense encounter in the already sensitive region.
The Guard’s website, sepahnews.com, published a statement Tuesday saying Americans were guilty of using “false narratives and unprofessional behavior” and should more strictly “abide by international regulations.” Specifically, the statement said the Guard's navy warned the U.S. vessels to stop their “provocative and aimless shooting.”
A day earlier, the U.S. said the Revolutionary Guard sent 13 armed speedboats too close to U.S. Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday. The Americans said a Coast Guard cutter fired warning shots when two of the Iranian boats came dangerously close.
The exchange comes as the United States and Iran engage in indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the United States left in 2018.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to comment when asked about the Iranians’ intentions.
“Sadly, harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon. It is something that all of our commanding officers and the crews of our vessels are trained to for,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “This activity is the kind of activity that could lead to somebody getting hurt and could lead to a real miscalculation there in the region, and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interests.”
It was the second time in two weeks that a U.S. ship opened fire to warn vessels of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
On April 26, an American warship fired warning shots when vessels of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard came too close to a patrol in the Persian Gulf. That was the first such shooting in nearly four years. The Navy released black-and-white footage of that encounter in international waters of the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf near Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In the latest incident, Kirby said 13 Iranian vessels maneuvered at high speed toward six Navy ships that were escorting the guided missile submarine USS Georgia through the Strait on Monday. The sub was sailing on the surface.
The six Navy escort ships included the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey. A day earlier, the Monterey had intercepted an arms shipment aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea apparently headed for Yemen, whose Houthi rebels are supported by Iran.
“They were acting very aggressively,” Kirby said of the Iranian boats.
At one point, two of the Iranian boats broke away from the others and positioned themselves on the other side of the U.S. ship formation. The two then sped toward some of the U.S. ships. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, U.S. crews issued multiple warnings to both groups of Iranian boats, including repeated bridge-to-bridge verbal warnings, said Navy Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Navy 5th Fleet spokesperson.
After the two Iranian boats failed to respond to the multiple warnings and closed to within 300 yards, the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired a volley of warning shots from its .50-caliber machine gun. It fired another volley when the Iranian boats got within 150 yards.
The two Iranian boats then “altered course and increased their distance from the U.S. forces,” Rebarich said.
Iran regularly rejects the U.S. Navy's claims with regard to similar incidents.