The US navy has fired 30 warning shots at 13 Iranian vessels who “harassed” American ships in the Strait of Hormuz, Pentagon officials have said.
John F Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, confirmed that the ships fired warning shots on Monday after the vessels “failed to heed warnings to move away to a safe distance”.
The two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels, which were armed with machine guns, conducted “unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers” close to the ships.
"This group of fast attack boats approached the US formation at high speed, closing in as close as 150 yards," the senior Pentagon official said in a press briefing.
According to Mr Kirby, the navy exhausted all other attempts to warn the ships including blasting a horn, bridge-to-bridge radio transmissions, and “other ways of communicating”.
The US Coast Guard Cutter Mau fired approximately 30 warning shots from a 50 caliber machine gun, the Pentagon said. The IRGCN broke contact following the second round of warning shots.
"Harassment by the IRGC navy is not a new phenomenon," Mr Kirby noted.
"It is something that all our commanding officers and crews of our vessels are trained ... for when serving in the Central Command area of responsibility, particularly in and around the Gulf."
Mr Kirby said that the action taken by the navy was “appropriate” for the situation, stipulating that the navy has a “right of defense” and “know how to use that right”.
"This kind of activity is the kind of activity that could lead to somebody getting hurt, and could lead to a real miscalculation in the region, and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interests," he said.
Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard rejected the US navy‘s claim that fast-approaching Iranian speedboats sparked the tense encounter.
The Guard’s website, sepahnews.com, published a statement on Tuesday saying Americans were guilty of using “false narratives and unprofessional behaviour” and should more strictly “abide by international regulations”.
Specifically, the statement said the Guard’s navy warned the US vessels to stop their “provocative and aimless shooting”.