- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tehran is accusing the U.S. Navy of provoking Iranian warships operating off the country’s coastline in the Persian Gulf after American forces opened fire on the vessel Tuesday.

The incident took place during naval drills in the region between the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Middle East allies when the Iranian warship skirted the maritime perimeter in which the exercises were taking place, recent reports claim. After issuing multiple radio warnings, the Iranian ship continued to advance toward the Cyclone-class U.S. patrol ship the USS Thunderbolt.

Sailors aboard the Thunderbolt were forces to fire several warning shots at the Iranian ship. The Iranian vessel shut down its engines and listed in the Gulf waters for a moment, before all ships left the area. In a terse statement, officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps said the incident was an “unprofessional and provocative move” by American forces “aiming to instigate and frighten the Iranian boat.”

The “IRGC navy patrol boat continued its mission” unabated before leaving the area, Iranian military officials said. The incident comes over a year after IRCG members captured a U.S. patrol board and briefly detained its crew in Iran. In January, 10 American sailors were taken into custody by the Iranian military, after a pair of American patrol boats drifted into the country’s sovereign waters in the Persian Gulf.

The incident, which roiled diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington as both countries were in the midst of intense negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, was “the accumulation of a number of small problems” stemming from the actual unit involved in the encounter to senior commanders who led the Navy squadron and task force which the unit served under, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at the time.

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