A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and another warship fired warning shot near Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday citing Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Tehran had called the incident provocative and unprofessional. “With only a few days since a provocative move in the northern end of the Persian Gulf in which the US Navy ships fired warning shots at an Iranian vessel, the American warships have once again taken the same action in the middle of the Persian Gulf,” the IRGC said in a statement.
The US Navy ships were intercepted by IRGC missile boats near the Resalat gas-oil field, when they approached the Iranians and dispatched a helicopter at 4pm on Friday, according to the statement. Then American warships opened fire in what the IRGC described as “a provocative and unprofessional move.” The Americans then left the area, the IRGC added, while the Iranians went on with their patrol.
“The US warships in a provocative and unprofessional move began firing warning shots at the Iranian vessels, to which the IRGC Navy’s ships paid no attention and continued with their mission.”
It is the second confrontation between US and Iranian navies in the Persian Gulf this week. On Tuesday, the USS Thunderbolt fired several warning shots from its 0.5 caliber heavy machine gun in response to an Iranian vessel’s “provocative actions,” according to Pentagon officials. Tehran challenged the statement, saying that the warship moved towards an Iranian vessel of the 3rd Naval Division and fired two rounds in an attempt at intimidation.
In March, Washington said that Iranian fast-attack boats came dangerously close to a US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran dismissed the allegations and warned that Americans “would be responsible for any unrest in the Persian Gulf,” and urged it to “change its behavior.”
The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet had no immediate comment.
Iran and the U.S. frequently have run-ins in the Persian Gulf, nearly all involving the Revolutionary Guard, a separate force from Iran’s military that answers only to the country’s supreme leader. In January, near the end of then-President Barack Obama’s term, the USS Mahan fired shots toward Iranian fast-attack boats as they neared the destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz.
U.S. military vessels have had approximately 60 unsafe interactions with Iranian ships in the Gulf since 2015, according to U.S. military records.
Iranian forces view the American presence in the Gulf as a provocation. They have accused the U.S. Navy of unprofessional behavior, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil trade passes by sea.
On Friday, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran prompted by a reportedly failed rocket launch on Thursday.