Iranian Patrol Boats "Harass" Four U.S. Navy Vessels

Published Aug 26, 2016 3:04 AM by The Maritime Executive

Patrol boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have harassed American naval vessels in multiple incidents in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz over the past several days, the U.S. Navy said Thursday. 

On Wednesday, three IRGC boats made a fast, close approach to the Navy Cyclone-class patrol ships USS Squall and USS Tempest in the northern end of the Persian Gulf. 

Later on, the vessels were harassed by another IRGC patrol craft; it came within 200 yards of the USS Squall, and when the Iranian craft failed to respond to warning flares and radio calls, the Squall's gunners fired warning shots into the water. 

The same boat went on to harass the guided missile destroyer USS Stout in a third encounter, passing the Stout's bow three times at speed and forcing her to maneuver to avoid collision, said U.S. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban.

These intercepts followed a dangerous close quarters situation Tuesday when four IRGC boats made a fast approach towards the USS Nitze near the Strait of Hormuz.  In video captured from the bridge of the Nitze, the boats are seen veering off onto a parallel course after the destroyer fires off warning flares and sounds the standard "five short" whistle signal. A Navy spokesman described the close approach as "unsafe and unprofessional."

"The Iranian high rate of closure . . . created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze," Cmdr. Urban said. He added that while the incident could have led to a diplomatic protest with another nation, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said Thursday that the ships had only been carrying out their regular duties monitoring foreign ships near Iranian waters. 

“If an American ship enters Iran’s maritime region, it will definitely get a warning. We will monitor them and, if they violate our waters, we will confront them,” he said in a stark statement reported by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Over the past year, American and Iranian naval forces have had multiple run-ins in the area. Iran has launched rockets in the vicinity of U.S. Navy vessels, flown drones near aircraft carriers and, in a major diplomatic incident, captured a group of American sailors who strayed into Iranian waters.