IRGC's Encounter With US Ship in Line of Duty

Hossein DehqanHossein Dehqan

Iran's defense minister defended IRGC naval vessels against accusations by the US of harassing one of its warships, saying it was part of their regular duties to monitor foreign ships near Iranian waters.

"If an American ship enters Iran's maritime region, it will definitely get a warning," Lieutenant General Hossein Dehqan said in a statement on Thursday, carried by the Iranian media.

"We will monitor them and, if they violate our waters, we will confront them."

The vessels of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps conducted what a US defense official described a day earlier as a "high-speed intercept" of the warship on Tuesday in the Strait of Hormuz, Reuters reported.

The official said two Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the USS Nitze in an incident that was "unsafe and unprofessional".

The vessels harassed the destroyer by "conducting a high-speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze, despite repeated warnings", claimed the official, who asked not to be identified.

In the incident, the USS Nitze allegedly tried to communicate with the Iranian vessels 12 times, but received no response and fired 10 flares in the vessels' direction.

"The Iranian high rate of closure ... created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze," the official contended.

USS Nitze had to change course to distance itself from the Iranian vessels, he added.

  Second Incident

After Dehqan's statement, a Pentagon spokesman announced another encounter on Wednesday in which a US Navy ship fired warning shots toward an Iranian fast-attack craft that approached two US ships.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that the USS Squall patrol craft fired three warning shots from a .50 caliber gun in the northern Persian Gulf after warning flares did not work.

The incident started with three Iranian vessels, but there was only one around by the time the warning shots were fired, the official said.

He described the Iranian behavior as "unsafe, unprofessional and not routine."

At one point, the Iranian vessel allegedly came within 200 yards (193 meters) of a US ship. The incidents underline the tensions that remain more than a year after Iran reached a landmark nuclear deal with Washington and other major powers.

Days before the accord went into full force in January, 10 US sailors aboard two patrol craft were detained by the IRGC when they entered Iranian territorial waters.

They were released the next day after being held for about 15 hours as it was determined that they had drifted into Iranian waters inadvertently due to a mechanical problem in one of the boats and a navigational error.