US Navy Forced To Fire Warning Shots At Iranian Ships, Again

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Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) operates in the South China Sea as part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) in the South China Sea on October 13, 2016. Picture taken on October 13, 2016. Courtesy Diana Quinlan/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

U.S. Navy destroyer fired several warning shots at two Iranian patrol boats Sunday after they threatened to ram the ship in the Persian Gulf, according to two U.S. defense officials speaking to the Associated Press.

The USS Mahan fired the shots after failing to establish communication with the boats and firing smoke flares, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Mahan was traveling through the strategically crucial Strait of Hormuz at the time of the engagement.

One official noted that the speed of the Iranian boats was the primary concern of the Mahan’s crew. The destroyer fired at the boats from 900 yards, forcing them to break course. The boats subsequently made radio contact with the Mahan, asking its course and speed.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway in the Persian Gulf through which a significant amount of the world’s oil passes through.

The engagement is the latest in a year-long series of naval engagements between Iran and the U.S. in the Persian Gulf. Iranian naval vessels seized two U.S. Navy boats and their 10 crewmen hostage last January. The USS Squall fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in August, followed by an attack during which Iranian fast-attack boats harassed the USS Firebolt in September. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy is usually responsible for the harassment of U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf. The IRGC is a paramilitary wing separate from the conventional Iranian Navy which is specifically loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It is unclear whether or not the IRGC Navy was responsible for Sunday’s engagement.

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