Navy fires warning shots at Iranian ship, Iran sends warning to US

ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 19, 2016) The guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), right, transits alongside the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61). Monterey and Nitze, deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, are supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Jenkins)

Multiple incidents between the U.S. Navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Persian Gulf have increased tensions between the two countries this week.

According to officials, the escalation began on Tuesday when Iranian ships made “provocative maneuvers” around a U.S. destroyer, the USS Nitze, in the Straight of Hormuz -the gateway to the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian ships that buzzed the Nitze ignored repeated radio, whistle and flare warnings from the Nitze and slowed their approach only when they were within 300 yards of the U.S. ship, said William Urban, a spokesman for the Navy’s 5th fleet.

On Wednesday, three Iranian ships approached the USS Squall and the USS Tempest -both coastal patrol ships- at a high rate speed.  Later in the day, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boats failed to heed U.S. Navy escalation of force measures conducted to deter their encroachment.

The USS Tempest fired flares and attempted communication via loudspeaker after an Iranian vessel came within 200 yards.  It was not until the USS Squall fire three rounds from a ship’s .50 caliber gun did the the ship depart the area.

The same vessel was later involved in a provocation with the USS Stout, a guided-missile destroyer.  “The vessel proceeded to cross the bow of the Stout at close range on three separate occasions,” Urban said.

“These were incidents that the crews deemed unsafe,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters. “These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation, and we don’t desire any kind of escalation. Our ships have been operating in that part of the world for years.”

A defense official revealed that U.S. and Iranian navies had interacted more than 250 times in the first half of 2016, almost as many times as the total for 2015.

Iran’s Defense minister, General Hosein Dehghan, claimed that the situation arose because the ships were in Iranian waters. He  that the country’s forces would confront any foreign ship that enters Iran’s maritime territory.

Despite the passage of a nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran -which the U.S. contends Iran has complied with- in early 2016, tensions in the Persian Gulf show no signs of subsiding.

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