USA accuses Iran of 'dangerous' harassment of U.S. warships

USA accuses Iran of 'dangerous' harassment of U.S. warships

A group of 11 ships with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet at close range and high speeds - with one passing within just 10 meters of a Coast Guard cutter.

The U.S. ships attempted to issue multiple warnings, through bridge-to-bridge radio, long-range acoustic noise maker devices, and five blasts from the ships' horns, but U.S. crews received no response from the IRGCN.

"After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the USA ships and opened distance between them", the statement said.

"The IRGCN's risky and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, [and] were not in accordance with the internationally recognised Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea", the USA military's statement said.

The Iranian boats "repeatedly conducted risky and harassing approaches" of six U.S. ships: the USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary mobile base platform ship; the USS Paul Hamilton, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer; the USS Firebolt and the USS Sirocco, cyclone-class coastal patrol ships, and the USCGC Wrangell and the USCGC Maui, U.S. Coast Guard island-class cutters.

On several occasions, US Navy ships fired warning shots at Iranian vessels when they got too close.

While such interactions had occurred occasionally a few years ago, they had largely stopped in recent months and years, and this incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the two countries.

The US boats were reportedly conducting drills with helicopters in global waters. Iran responded by launching missiles at Iraqi military bases hosting USA forces.

Asked in a Fox News interview whether he had discussed the incident with the Pentagon, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We've talked as a team.We're evaluating how best to respond and how best to communicate our displeasure with what. took place".

Tense incidents remain common between Iranian and USA forces in the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth called the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of all the world's oil passes. It is the first provocative exchange between the two nations since early March, when the USA and coalition aircraft struck Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group locations in Iraq in retaliation for the deaths of two US troops in a rocket attack a day earlier.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the United States has been closely monitoring the behavior of Iran and other adversaries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that "if that happens, Iran will pay a heavy price".

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