A US Navy warship fired a warning flare to ward off an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ speedboat coming straight at it during a tense encounter in the Strait of Hormuz, officials said on Tuesday.
The incident on Monday came as tensions remain high over stalled negotiations over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers and as Tehran enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels under decreasing international oversight.
The USS Sirocco, a Cyclone-class patrol ship, and the USNS Choctaw County, a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, were in the close encounter with three Iranian boats while passing through the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Persian Gulf, the US Navy said.
Photo: AFP / DVIDS
In a video released by the navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, a high-speed Guard Boghammar is seen turning head-on toward the Sirocco.
The Sirocco repeatedly blows its horn at the Boghammar, which turns away as it closes in.
The flare shot can be heard, but not seen, as the Boghammar — with the Iranian flag flying above it — passes the Sirocco.
The navy said that the Boghammar came within 45m of the Sirocco, introducing the risk of the vessels running into each other.
The overall encounter lasted about an hour, the navy said.
The corps’ “actions did not meet international standards of professional or safe maritime behavior, increasing the risk of miscalculation and collision,” the navy said.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency said its inspectors verified that Iran was preparing to enrich uranium through a new cascade of 166 advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordo facility.
Already, Iran has one cascade of IR-6s operating at Fordo. They enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity.
Iran has not told it yet the level at which the second cascade would be enriching, the agency said.
US Department of State spokesman Ned Price said that Washington remained “concerned that Iran continues to deploy advanced centrifuges well beyond the limits of what’s prescribed in the” nuclear deal.
“Its fissile material breakout time has been dramatically reduced from about a year to what can now be measured in weeks or even less,” Price said.
“We are deeply concerned by the current state of Iran’s nuclear program,” he added.
“It’s precisely why we want to see those strict limits that verification and monitoring regime reimposed on Iran,” he said.
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