Iran again provokes US Navy in Persian Gulf

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) continued its provocations against the US Navy in the Persian Gulf on Sunday when seven armed Iranian boats sped towards a US Navy patrol ship, blocking its path.

The US naval ship was forced to change course to avoid collision after Iranian naval craft came within 100 yards of the US ship and blocked its path.

A Defense Department official condemned the incident as “unsafe and unprofessional due to lack of communications and the close-range harassing maneuvering,” Reuters reported.

The official added that Iranian sailors manning weapons were visible on their boats.

This is the latest incident in a growing list of Iranian provocations against US forces in the region.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the top commander of US forces in the Middle East, sharply criticized Iran last week for its naval provocations, saying they are worrying because they risk setting off a full-blown conflict.

“What we see with the Iranians is not particularly responsible,” Votel stated. “It is provocative; in some cases, it’s unsafe. And it can lead to situations where we may not be able to de-escalate in a time before something happens.”

The US maintains a formidable presence in the Gulf and thus has frequent encounters with Iranian vessels.

Last Wednesday, the USS Squall fired three warning shots on an Iranian boat that was heading directly towards the USS Tempest. US officials said the Iranian boat came within 200 yards of the Tempest and ignored several radio calls and warning flares.

It was one of three such dangerous encounters that US ships had with IRGC boats in the Gulf that day.

One day earlier, four Iranian boats had approached the USS Nitze, at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz. The boats broke off contact after the Nitze fired flares.

Since the signing of the nuclear deal last year, the Iranians have exhibited belligerence in several military-related incidents.

Last December, the Iranians fired rockets near a US warship and other vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, and a month later flew a drone over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
AP contributed to this report.