Close call as Iranian and US naval forces near each other

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Eleven vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came dangerously close to US Navy and Coastguard ships in the Gulf, the US military said calling the moves “dangerous and provocative.”

Similar interactions happened occasionally a few years ago, they stopped and this incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the countries.

According to a statement, the Iranian vessels approached six US military ships conducting integration operations with Army helicopters in international waters.

At one point, Iranian vessels came within 10 yards of the US Coastguard cutter Maui.

The US ships issued warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, blasts from horns and long-range acoustic noise makers.

The Iranian ships left after an hour, the statement added.

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) issued a brief Farsi-language story on the US military report, without reaction from Iranian authorities.

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision and were not in accordance with the internationally recognised Convention on International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea,” the US military statement said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked in a Fox News interview whether he discussed the incident with the Pentagon, said: “We talked as a team. We’re evaluating how best to respond and how best to communicate our displeasure with what took place.”

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels were not uncommon in 2016 and 2017. On occasions, US Navy ships fired warning shots at Iranian vessels.

Tensions between Iran and the US increased earlier this year after the US killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in a drone strike in Iraq.

Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on Iraq’s Ain al-Asad base where US forces are stationed. No US troops were killed or injured.

Earlier this month President Donald Trump said Iran or its proxies planned a sneak attack on US targets in Iraq and warned they would pay a “heavy price.”

Maritime security sources said a Hong Kong-flagged tanker was briefly detained in Iran after armed Iranian guards in speedboats directed the vessel into its waters while transiting the Gulf of Oman.

The SC Taipei chemical tanker was in international waters when it was stopped.