A US Navy warship fired warning shots during a tense confrontation with three Iranian attack boats in the Persian Gulf on Monday.
The incident comes as the second high-risk encounter between US and Iranian naval forces in just the past month.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the US Fifth Fleet said three fast inshore attack craft from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy came within 68 yards of the USS Firebolt, a Navy patrol coast ship, and the Coast Guard cutter Baranoff.
The Iranian ships continued operating close to the two US vessels despite multiple warnings over the radio and through loudspeaker devices.
As a result, the Firebolt fired warning shots. The IRGC boats responded by immediately backing away to a safe distance.
"Throughout the interaction, US forces proactively communicated with the IRGCN vessels and executed pre-planned responses to reduce the risk of miscalculation, avoid a collision, and to de-escalate the situation," Cdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, said.
She called on the Guard to “operate with due regard for the safety of all vessels as required by international law.”
“U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense,” she said.
The Navy released black-and-white footage of the encounter on Monday night.
In it, lights can be seen in the distance and what appears to be a single gunshot can be heard, with a tracer round racing across the top of the water.
The last time a Navy vessel fired warning shots in the Persian Gulf in an incident involving Iran was in July 2017, when the USS Thunderbolt, a sister ship to the Firebolt, fired to warn off an IRGC vessel.
However, Monday's incident comes as the second time this month that the Navy accused the IRGC of operating in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner.
On April 2, four IRGC ships, including three fast attack craft and a support vessel, came within 70 yards of two Coast Guard cutters.
Footage of that incident was released by the Navy on Tuesday, showing an IRGC ship cutting in front of the USCGC Monomoy, causing the Coast Guard vessel to come to an abrupt stop with its engine smoking.
The IRGC also did the same with another Coast Guard vessel, the USCGC Wrangell, Rebarich said.
Rebarich said that the Iranian actions on April 2, "were deemed unsafe and unprofessional," increasing the risk of collision.
Additionally, she said the actions of the Iranian ships ignored internationally recognized maritime customs and international regulations for preventing collisions at sea.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge that encounter, which resulted in no injuries or damage.
The two encounters come while the US and Iran are engaged in ongoing indirect talks for a possible return to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark accord in 2018 in favour of a “maximum pressure” strategy against Tehran, increasing tensions between the nations.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has pledged to renew diplomacy with Iran.
US and Iranian officials said last week progress has been made in talks about rejoining the nuclear deal.
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