On Monday, two US defense officials reported that a US Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels after they closed in at a high rate of speed near the Strait of Hormuz.
In September, Donald Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harass the US Navy in the Gulf would be “shot out of the water.”
According to accounts from four sources on Sunday, five Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan and two other US ships that were entering the Strait of Hormuz, which is located between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
The Mahan, a destroyer, fired warning shots and used radio calls, bells, whistles and flares to signal to the ships to keep their distance. However, there was no response to the radio calls. A US helicopter overhead then dropped smoke grenades.
The incident began with a routine shadowing by one regular Iranian navy ship as the Mahan; the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship; and the USNS Walter Diehl, a replenishment oiler, began to enter the strait toward the Persian Gulf. Sources said that four small inshore attack crafts began harassing the US ships, with six separate approaches by the Iranians over a nine-hour period, essentially the whole period of the transit. One official said similar incidents occur occasionally.
Only one approach was deemed unprofessional, and that resulted in the firing of warning shots, since they were approaching Mahan at a high speed of 15 to 20 knots. Sources say that defensive measures were taken because if not stopped at a distance of 500 yards or more, it could have been dangerous for the US ship. During the interaction, Iran put up a small unmanned aerial vehicle.
The incident is the latest tense encounter between the United States and Iran, in and over waters near Iran in recent months, which have included the capture of US sailors, Iranian rocket launches, and drones flying over US vessels.
After years of mutual animosity, serious differences still remain over Iran’s ballistic missile program as well as conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Most recently in August, another U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots towards an Iranian fast-attack craft that approached two U.S. ships.
It was reported that the warning shots fired on Sunday were just one of seven interactions the Mahan had with Iranian vessels over the weekend, however, the others were not considered to be dangerous.