US Navy fired warning shots at Iranian boats, responding to belligerence

Iran’s belligerence in the Persian Gulf continues as it again threatens a US Navy destroyer.

A US Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at armed Iranian patrol boats that were speeding toward the American warship at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, marring a recent period of relatively quiet interactions between US and Iranian forces, the Pentagon said Monday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said a group of four fast-attack boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy had ignored multiple warning attempts by the crew of the USS Mahan.

The Mahan used an audible siren, flashing lights and a ship’s whistle to warn the Iranians and managed to establish radio communication. The initial warnings were not heeded, prompting the decision to fire three warning shots with a .50-caliber machine gun, Davis said.

The Iranian boats then turned away.

The incident happened Sunday inside the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway at the entrance to the Gulf.

‘An Unsafe and Unprofessional Interaction’

“This was an unsafe and unprofessional interaction,” Davis said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest added: “These types of actions are certainly concerning and certainly risk escalating tensions.”

The number of acts of belligerence by Iranian forces against US troops stationed in the area has more than doubled since the signing of the controversial nuclear deal a year ago.  A US defense official told CNN in August that the frequency of such incidents had already surpassed the entire amount for 2015.

This latest incident is among a growing list of Iranian provocations against US forces, mostly maritime, in the region. The last one occurred in November, when an IRGC boat trained its weapons on a US Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopter and threatened to shoot it down.

In September, Iran threatened to shoot down two US Navy aircraft flying in the Persian Gulf.

Earlier that month there were several dangerous encounters that US ships had with IRGC boats in the Gulf.

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.

In October, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired rockets several times at US Navy ships in the area. Gen. Joseph Votel, the top commander of US forces in the Middle East, said he believes Iran was behind the incidents. He sharply criticized the Islamic Republic for its naval provocations, saying they are worrying because they risk setting off a full-blown conflict.

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“What we see with the Iranians is not particularly responsible,” Votel stated in August. “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.”

By: World Israel News Staff and AP