U.S. Navy: Iran ships came close to U.S. vessel in ‘provocative harassment’

U.S. Navy: Iran ships came close to U.S. vessel in 'provocative harassment'

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Iranian vessels and a U.S. Navy ship had a recent encounter deemed unsafe and unprofessional by the U.S. Department of Defense in the central Persian Gulf.

The incident involving seven Iranian vessels belonging to the Revolutionary GuardCorps and the USS Firebolt coastal patrol ship occurred Sunday. U.S. Defense Department officials said Firebolt, which carries 30 crew, was shadowed by seven Iranian vessels — three of which came within 500 yards of the Firebolt for 8 minutes.

One Iranian vessel broke off from its formation and raced in front of Firebolt — stopping at a distance of about 100 yards. The ship’s weapons were manned but not pointed toward Firebolt. U.S. Defense Department officials said this is the 31st unsafe U.S. naval encounter with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf so far this year. There were 23 unsafe encounters in 2015.

The incident, deemed by the U.S. Navy as “provocative harassment,” comes less than two weeks after U.S. naval ships were also in a similar incident in which the USS Squall fired three warning shots to ward off the Iranian vessels, as per standard maritime procedure.

“Clearly the Iranian behavior has to change,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday.