A US Navy ship fired warning shots at an armed Iranian patrol boat Tuesday in the northern end of the Persian Gulf, according to two US defense officials.
The Iranian boat is believed to have been operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a defense official familiar with details of the incident. The officials said the Iranian boat approached and came within 150 yards of the US ship.
“At this point the United States does not know what the intentions of the Iranian vessels were, but the behavior is not acceptable given that the USS Mahan was operating in international waters,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press conference on Monday.
Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year after a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But serious differences still remain over Iran’s ballistic missile program as well as conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The Iranians did not respond to any warnings from the US ship, including radio calls, firing of flares and five short blasts from the US Navy ship’s whistle, which is the internationally recognized communications signal for danger, the officials said.
The Iranian ship then ceased its provocative actions but lingered in the area for some hours, one of the officials said. There were several US Navy ships in the immediate vicinity at the time of the incident conducting routine patrol operations in international waters, according to the reports.