A U.S. Navy video and several photos show Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this month, the first such incident in almost a year.

Three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) fast-attack boats and one larger support vessel, Harth 55, swarmed U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats Wrangell and Monomoy during maritime security operations in international waters on April 2.

The U.S. Navy says that during the three-hour incident, the Harth 55 “repeatedly crossed the bows of the U.S. vessels at an unnecessarily close range,” at one point coming within 70 yards of the U.S. ships.

One “unsafe and unprofessional” approach, as the Navy described it, was captured on video.

The U.S. Navy said the large Iranian vessel “closed aggressively” with the Wrangell, forcing it to maneuver to avoid a collision while blowing the horn.

In addition to blasting the horn five times, the U.S. ships also radioed the Iranian vessel. The Harth 55 responded to bridge-to-bridge communications but did not alter its behavior. The IRGCN vessels eventually withdrew after about three hours.

The Navy said that “the IRGCN’s actions were deemed unsafe and unprofessional” because “their actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision.”

The two Coast Guard vessels are assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia and operate under U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 55.

Another shot of the April 2 incident involving US Coast Guard ships and IRGCN vessels.
Another shot of the April 2 incident involving U.S. Coast Guard ships and IRGCN vessels. (U.S. Navy)

The incident earlier this month is the first such incident since April 15, 2020, meaning it is the first tense encounter between U.S. military ships and IRGCN vessels of the Biden administration.

During the April 2020 incident, which lasted about an hour, 11 IRGC boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships conducting operations in international waters. At one point, one of the Iranian boats came within 10 yards of one of the Coast Guard cutters.

The U.S. Navy characterized that encounter as not only “unsafe and unprofessional” but also “dangerous and provocative.”

FILE PHOTO: Four Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels, some of several to maneuver in what the U.S. Navy says are "unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range" is seen next to the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton in the Gulf April 15, 2020. U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessels alongside U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf in April 2020. (Reuters)

In response to the aggressive behavior, then-President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered the U.S. Navy to “destroy” Iranian gunboats that “harass our ships at sea.” He then doubled down in a White House press conference, asserting that the Navy would “shoot them out of the water.” No such action occurred.

These types of encounters with the IRGCN were once fairly common. In 2015, there were 23 “unsafe and unprofessional” interactions with Iranian naval vessels. In 2016, there were 35, and in 2017, there were 14, the AP reported.

Though malign IRGC activities continued, harassment of U.S. ships at sea stopped for a time starting in 2018 but has since resumed.

The U.S. Navy said that “U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner.” The service added that “commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

 

This article was written by Ryan Pickrell and originally published on the Insider.

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