by Patrick Goodenough, CNS News:
Iran’s defense minister vowed Thursday that any U.S. or other warships that enter Iranian waters would be “severely punished,” as the Pentagon confirmed that a U.S. patrol vessel had fired warning shots after being approached by an Iranian attack boat in an “unsafe” manner.
“It is a natural and routine program of the border patrol to do surveillance in the southern waters and to collect intelligence on foreign ships’ operations,” the Mehr news agency quoted Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan as telling reporters in Isfahan.
Whether American or otherwise, he said, “any destroyer of any sort would be severely punished if they are found to encroach our waters in Persian Gulf.”
In the latest in a series of incidents in the area, an Iranian vessel approached two U.S. Navy ships Thursday, prompting crew on the USS Squall – a Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship forward deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain – to fire three warning shots.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said he believed the shots were fired “into the water.”
“The Iranian craft, as I understand it, left at that point.”
The U.S. vessels had initially taken other steps aimed at de-escalating the situation, including the firing of flares.
“They felt the need to take an additional step to try and de-escalate the situation, and that was, again, to fire the warning shots,” Cook said.
“The onus here is on the Iranians to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, like navies all over the world do.”
In an earlier incident Thursday, four Iranian vessels approached the destroyer USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz in what the Pentagon described as “an unsafe and unprofessional manner.”
“Our ships were in international waters,” said Cook. “Our sailors were conducting themselves professionally as they are trained to do. And we did not see the same from the Iranian boats on the other side.”
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