The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui fired 30 warning shots at several Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fast in-shore attack craft (FIAC) on Monday. The Iranian boats were harassing six U.S. vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz. 

This was the second time in two weeks that a U.S. ship fired warning shots against Iranian vessels that were operating in an unsafe, aggressive manner.

The Iranian Vessels Had Their Guns Uncovered and Manned

Monday’s incident unfolded as 13 Iranian fast-attack boats maneuvered at high speed toward six Navy ships that were escorting the guided-missile submarine USS Georgia, which was traveling on the surface through the Strait. 

At one point, two of the Iranian boats broke away from the others and positioned themselves on the other side of the American formation. They sped up to 32 knots toward the U.S. ships in an aggressive and unsafe manner with their weapons uncovered and manned.

Navy Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Navy Fifth Fleet spokesperson said that the Iranian boats failed to heed ship-to-ship radio warnings.

After the two Iranian boats had closed to within 300 yards, the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired several warning shots from its .50-caliber machine gun. It fired another volley when the Iranian boats got within 150 yards.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui, patrols in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui, patrols in the Persian Gulf. (USN Fifth Fleet photo)

The two Iranian boats then “altered course and increased their distance from the U.S. forces,” Rebarich said.

The six Navy escort ships included the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, which had earlier seized a shipment of illegal arms transported by a dhow. The arms were apparently sent from Iran and were bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

In April, U.S. warships twice had to fire warning shots at Iranian fast-attack boats that had closed to less than 300 yards of them in the Gulf.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby was asked about what the Iranians’ intentions were in this latest harassment but he deferred. 

“Earlier today, a large group of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy… fast boats conducted unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers and failed to exercise due regard for the safety of U.S. forces as required under international law while operating in close proximity to U.S. naval vessels that were transiting the Strait of Hormuz,” Kirby began. 

“Sadly, harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon. It is something that all of our commanding officers and the crews of our vessels are trained for,” Kirby added. “This activity is the kind of activity that could lead to somebody getting hurt and could lead to a real miscalculation there in the region, and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interests.”

Two Iranian fast-attack boats approach the Coast Guard cutter Maui at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday.
Two Iranian fast-attack boats approach the Maui at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday. (U.S. Navy)

The latest incident comes amid discussions between the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signatories on how to renew the agreement.

U.S. negotiators returned to Vienna last week for the fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal. Former President Donald Trump had withdrawn from the deal in 2018.

Iran has frequently stated that it does not and has never sought to produced nuclear weapons. Yet, Israeli intelligence has contradicted Iran’s claims.