Seven Iranian fast-attack boats forced a U.S. Navy patrol ship to change course after harassing it in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The USS Firebolt was interdicted by boats belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a fanatic Iranian paramilitary wing. Three of the boats “maneuvered close to the ship, shadowing her course from a range of about 500 yards,” U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters. One of the boats later ran ahead of the Firebolt, turned around and sped straight toward the ship before stopping directly in front of it.
“This caused the Firebolt to have to maneuver to have to avoid collision. They came within about 100 yards of each other during the interaction. The Firebolt attempted multiple radio communications with the Iranians,” explained Davis.
The Firebolt was operating legally in international waters at the time of the incident, according to the Pentagon.
“This is another example of another unsafe and unprofessional interaction we’ve had with the IRGCN in the Gulf,” said Davis. Iranian forces have harassed U.S. vessels a total of 31 times this year, a defense official told The Hill.
IRGC vessels have increased their dangerous engagements with the U.S. Navy ever since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal in July 2015, however, recent engagements have been particularly dangerous. The USS Squall was forced to fire warning shots at an IRGC boat after repeated attempts to communicate warnings over radio went unheeded in late August.
The provocations in the Gulf come from “rogue commanders” within the Iranian regime, according to Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
The IRGC is separate and distinct from the conventional Iranian armed forces and reports to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s Navy is responsible for patrolling the Persian Gulf, while its special operations forces, known as the Qods Force, is responsible for training and supporting various terrorist groups in the Middle East.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford has estimated that its leader, Qassem Soleimani, is responsible for the deaths of as many as 500 U.S. soldiers.
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