- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A U.S. warship fired warning shots after Iranian speedboats came within 68 yards of American vessels in the Persian Gulf, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, detailing the latest close encounter between the two nations’ militaries.

The Monday evening incident, officials said, involved the USS Firebolt and the Coast Guard patrol boat Baranof. The Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which oversees U.S. operations in the region, said multiple speedboats with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) approached “to an unnecessarily close range with unknown intent.”

At their closest point, the Pentagon said, the IRGCN boats were within just 68 yards of the American ships. Such a distance is unusual and considered unsafe.

Officials said the Iranian boats fled after the Firebolt fired several warning shots.

“Throughout the interaction, U.S. naval forces proactively communicated with the IRGCN vessels and executed pre-planned responses to reduce the risk of miscalculation, avoid a collision, and to de-escalate the situation,” the Fifth Fleet said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The Firebolt and Baranof crews operated with distinct professionalism, superior seamanship and dispassionate yet firm resolve. As professional mariners, we expect the IRGCN to operate with due regard for the safety of all vessels as required by international law.”

The incident Monday night was the second this month. On April 2, the U.S. Navy said that Iranian ships conducted “unsafe maneuvers” during a tense three-hour encounter with Coast Guard vessels in the Persian Gulf. 

The escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iranian navies come as the Biden administration tries to salvage a deal with Tehran that limits the country’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

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