- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2020

The U.S. military on Thursday offered condolences to Iran after an Iranian warship accidentally fired a missile on its own support vessel during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman, killing 19 people on board.

State-run media reports on Monday said the Konarak — a Hendijan-class support ship that Iran acquired prior to the 1979 revolution — was placing targets for the Navy exercises too close to an intended target when the missile was fired. The ship was updated in 2018, according to Iran’s Fars news agency, and carries four cruise missiles.

U.S. Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban offered “sincere condolences to the Iranian people for the tragic loss of life,” in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

But he said the force is “troubled that this mishap occurred in such close proximity to a high-traffic international shipping lane and at a time when most of the region’s focus is on the fight against COVID-19, the unnecessary loss of life is regrettable.”

The exercise was being conducted near the Strait of Hormuz, where 20% of all oil travels through.

The latest friendly-fire incident follows a pattern that saw Tehran’s military embarrassingly shoot down a civilian airliner, killing all 176 people on board four months ago.

The accidental strike on its own ships came at a crucial moment for Tehran, which in recent weeks has once again provoked a standoff with the U.S. after Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats last month harassed American warships conducting drills in international waters.

Mr. Trump responded to the standoff by vowing to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats” that threaten any American vessels.

After previous rounds of Iranian aggression, the president has suggested that Iran made a mistake and perhaps was not able to keep control over its own military.

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