Iranian boats harass US warship near Persian Gulf

Four Iranian boats harassed and attempted to intimidate a US Navy warship near the Persian Gulf in international waters, but no fire was exchanged.

A US defense official said Iranian boats approached the destroyer USS Nitze at high speed on Wednesday, in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.”

Chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson said that the incident reflects the greater competition the US is facing at sea and emphasizes the naval tensions with Tehran, which include similar run-ins as well as the detention  of 10 US Navy sailors who mistakenly steered into Iranian waters.

The destroyer fired ten flares in the direction of the Iranian boats and sounded the ship’s whistle several times in an attempt to warn the boats away. The US ship also tried to communicate with the Iranians over the radio, and changed its course to avoid the Iranian sailors.

Two boats ignored the warnings and continued to speed toward the Nitze until they were within 300 yards of the US ship.

Richardson said the incident raised questions about what is the “new normal.”

“We have to be mindful that we don’t become complacent as things get steadily busier, steadily more engaging and that we’re thoughtful about how we approach those challenges,” he cautioned.

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.