A United States Navy official has said that four vessels from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard carried out an intercept at high speeds of the USS Nitze on Tuesday near Strait of Hormuz waters, calling the incident unprofessional as well as unsafe.
The navy official said that two of the Iranian vessels turned away but not until they come to within less than 300 yards from the guided-missile destroyer of the U.S., as it crossed international waters. Only after it sent multiple audio and visual warnings did the Iranian vessels turn away.
The incident is just the latest in a number of close encounters with vessels from Iran across the region since last December. The incidents with Iran included rocket launches by Iran, drones passing over U.S. vessels as well as U.S. sailors being captured last January.
They come on a backdrop of renewed diplomatic contacts between the U.S. and Iran, which triggered a backlash politically amongst hardliners in Iran, including the Islamic Republic’s powerful IRGC.
In wake of the incident on Tuesday, the Nitze as well as the Naval Forces Central Command determined that the vessels from Iran were in violation of international law and of maritime standards, acting both unprofessionally and dangerously.
The vessels approached the Nitze at high speeds, while it was operating in international waters in accordance with all international laws and ignored rules of the road that were set out in a maritime agreement signed in 1972, said the Navy official.
Multiple warnings were ignored by the IRGC vessels said the Navy official, which created a harassing, dangerous environment that could have caused the Nitze to take measure to defend itself, which would have escalated the situation.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has the responsibility of close to 2.5 million square miles that run from the Arabian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman to the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean as well as 20 nations.
The encounter on Tuesday took place while the Nitze and USS Mason a guided-missile destroyer were carrying out routine transit close to the strait that is internationally recognized.
The four vessels of the IRGC approached the U.S. vessels at high speed. On twelve occasions the Nitze attempted to make contact through radio after identifying them but received no response, said the official from the U.S. Navy who requested anonymity for discussing military operations.
The U.S. vessel used a danger signal that is internationally accepted of five short ship’s whistle blasts.