Iranian ships again harass Coast Guard cutters in Arabian Gulf, Navy says

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Harth 55, left, crossed the bow of the Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Monomoy, right, in the southern Arabian Gulf April 2. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy 
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Harth 55, left, crossed the bow of the Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Monomoy, right, in the southern Arabian Gulf April 2. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy 

April 27 (UPI) -- Iranian vessels harassed U.S. Coast Guard boats in the Arabian Gulf Monday for the second time this month, according to the Navy.

On Monday night three Iranian boats came into "an unnecessarily close range" with two U.S. vessels, said a Navy press release describing an incident similar to one that happened April 2.


According to the Navy, at about 8 p.m. Monday, three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fast inshore attack craft "to an unnecessarily close range with unknown intent" of the U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt and the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranoff, both of which were conducting routine maritime security operations in the gulf.

The vessels came within 68 yards of the U.S. ships, the Navy said.

U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices but the IRGCN vessels "continued their close range maneuvers."


After the Firebolt's crew issued warning shots, the Iranian vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels.

The Navy said U.S. forces proactively communicated with the IRGCN vessels and executed pre-planned responses to avoid a collision and de-escalate the situation.

"The U.S. is not an aggressor; our naval forces remain postured in a non-provocative manner that exemplifies professionalism, incentivizes adherence to international law and customs, and persuades others to emulate our actions," the release said. "Our forces are trained, however, to conduct effective defensive measures when necessary."

The release, issued Tuesday, echoes one issued the same day but describing an incident that took place in the same region at the beginning of the month.

That release described an "unsafe and unprofessional interaction" between four ships from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy as they approached two U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats in the southern Arabian Gulf April 2.

The USCGC Wrangel and the USCGC Monomoy were conducting routine maritime security patrols in the international waters of the gulf when Iran's Harth 55 "repeatedly crossed the bows of the U.S. vessels at an unnecessarily close rang," the Navy said Tuesday in a press release.


The Harth 55 was accompanied by three fast attack craft or fast inshore attack craft, the release said.

According to the Navy, U.S. crews issued five short horn blasts, as well as multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, and the Harth 55 responded to the radio queries but continued the maneuvers.

For about three hours, the U.S. issued warnings and conducted "defensive maneuvers," and eventually Iran's vessels moved away from the U.S. ships, opening distance between them.

The IRGCN's actions were not consistent with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea "rules of the road" or maritime customs, and increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, Navy officials said.

"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," the Navy's release said.

News on the two incidents surfaced as talks over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- a nuclear deal between the United States, Iran and other world powers -- entered their third week.

The deal was signed in 2015, but in 2108 then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement.


Seyed Abbas Araghchi, head of the Iranian delegate to the talks, told Iranian state television Tuesday that he believes all sides are on the right track, yet "there are still challenges and difficult details," the Tehran Times reported.

Last week U.S. officials said there had been progress in the talks, but no breakthroughs.

Tuesday's press release also comes a few days after an audio recording was leaked in which Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was heard criticizing the IRGC and the assassinated top general Qasem Soleimani.

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