In a move that the U.S. military called “highly provocative,” an Iranian ship fired rockets near American naval warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday.
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between Iran and Oman through which one-third of the world’s oil passes, is critical for U.S. and allied ships launching attacks against ISIS targets. U.S. Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines said in a statement on Wednesday that Iran launched the unguided rockets with only 23 minutes of advanced warning. The Associated Press reported more:
[Raines said] that Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval vessels fired “several unguided rockets” about 1,370 meters (1,500 yards) from the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier, the USS Bulkeley destroyer and a French frigate, the FS Provence. Raines said commercial sea traffic also was nearby, though the missiles weren’t fired in the direction of any ships.
Iran’s “actions were highly provocative,” Raines said. “Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law.”
The Harry S Truman’s recent entry into the Persian Gulf marked the return of an American aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf after a two-month absence, the first such absence in nearly a decade. Iran carried out a controversial ballistic missile test the day after the USS Theodore Roosevelt departed from the Gulf.
The firing of the rockets is another example of Iran challenging America’s commitment to protecting global shipping in the Strait of Hormuz this year. In April, Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris, holding it for ten days in violation of international law. In May, an Iranian ship fired on a Singapore-flagged ship.
American naval vessels have also frequently been the target of Iranian provocations. In 2014, Iran broadcast a simulation of its forces attacking Israel and the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on state television. In February, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sunk a mock U.S. aircraft carrier during military exercises. The exercises were broadcast on state television with the quote, “If the Americans are ready to be buried at the bottom of the waters of the Persian Gulf – so be it,” a quote attributed to the first leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And in March, an Iranian surveillance aircraft came unusually close to a Navy helicopter from the USS Carl Vinson.
Last month, Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, said that Iran’s “malign behavior” at sea had not changed since the announcement of the nuclear deal in July.
[Photo: Airwolfhound / Flickr ]