US accuses Iran Navy of ‘dangerous’ harassment in Gulf

A group of 11 Iranian naval vessels made “dangerous and provocative” maneuvers near US ships in the Gulf on Wednesday, in one case passing within 10 yards of a Coast Guard cutter, American officials said.

In a statement, the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said vessels from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of several American ships at close range and high speed.

The American vessels included the USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy destroyer, the USS Lewis B. Puller, a ship that serves as an afloat landing base, and the USCGC Maui. The ships were operating with US Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters, the statement said.

The “dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision … and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” the statement said.

The Americans issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, fired five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no immediate response, the statement said.

After about an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked in a Fox News interview whether he had discussed the incident with the Pentagon, said: «We’ve talked as a team. … We’re evaluating how best to respond and how best to communicate our displeasure with what … took place.»

Tense incidents remain common between Iranian and US forces in the Gulf and its narrow mouth called the Strait of Hormuz. Iran seized ships last summer and the US accuses it of attacking tankers in the region amid tensions over President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrawing America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

On Tuesday, armed men in speedboats boarded and briefly held the Hong Kong-flagged tanker SC Taipei and its Chinese crew before releasing the vessel.

The US-led International Maritime Security Construct, a group created to deter Iranian attacks in the region, acknowledged the incident in a statement late Wednesday. The group said it “assessed no immediate threat to the free flow of shipping in the area.”

Maritime security sources said the chemical tanker had been sailing in international waters when it was stopped.

By Asharq Al-Awsat

Vesna News — official website

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