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U.S. accuses Iran patrol boat of harassing its vessels in Strait of Hormuz

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The USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary sea base platform ship, is one of two U.S. vessels Central Command accused Iran of harassing in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dylan Murakami/U.S. Air Force
The USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary sea base platform ship, is one of two U.S. vessels Central Command accused Iran of harassing in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dylan Murakami/U.S. Air Force

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The United States is accusing Iran of harassing its Navy ships as they transited the Strait of Hormuz earlier this week amid a recent uptick in U.S. military vessels intercepting attempts by Tehran to smuggle weapons via the sea route to Yemen.

The Tuesday statement from U.S. Central Command said a navy patrol boat of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps "interacted in an unsafe and unprofessional manner" Monday night when it attempted to blind U.S. vessels commuting through the important international trade route.

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U.S. military officials identified the ships as the USS Lewis B. Puller, an expeditionary sea base platform ship, and guided-missile destroy USS The Sullivans.

The two U.S. ships were conducting a routine transit through international waters when the Iranian vessel approached and shined a spotlight in an attempt to blind the U.S. bridge. It also crossed within 150 yards of the two U.S. vessels, which CENTCOM said was "dangerously close, particularly at night."

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The situation was de-escalated by the U.S. ships through the use of audible warnings and non-lethal lasers, it said.

"This dangerous action in international waters is indicative of Iran's destabilizing activity across the Middle East," Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman, said.

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CENTCOM described Iran's actions as violations of international standards of professional and safe maritime behavior that increases the risk of a miscalculation that could result in a collision.

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The incident occurred amid tense relations between Washington and Tehran as the administration of President Joe Biden continues to put pressure on Iran over its ongoing crack down on anti-regime protests.

It has also been ratcheting its financial vices on Iran in an attempt to sanction it back to the negotiating table to forge a new pact aimed at preventing Tehran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

The interaction also comes days after the USS Lewis B. Puller intercepted a fishing trawler in the region attempting smuggle more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds, fuses and propellants for rockets from Iran to Yemen.

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The U.S. 5th Fleet said the haul amounted to 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 25,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition, nearly 7,000 fuses for rockets and more than 2,100 kilograms of propellant.

Last month, the U.S. 5th Fleet had also stopped a fishing vessel attempting to smuggle more than 70 tons of ammonium perchlorate, a powerful oxidizer commonly used to make rocket and missile fuel, as well as explosives. Again, U.S. military officials said the lethal aid was being smuggled from Iran to Yemen.

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