A US ship resorted to firing warning shots at three Iranian vessels from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy which came within 68 yards of the USS Firebolt,in the Persian Gulf.
Three fast inshore attack craft from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy came within 68 yards of the USS Firebolt, a Navy patrol coast ship, and the Coast Guard cutter Baranoff on Monday night, CNN reported citing a statement from Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Rebarich said that the three Iranian ships kept operating close to the US vessels despite repeated bridge-to-bridge warnings and the use of loud-hailer devices. The USS Firebolt then resorted to firing warning shots, which prompted the Iranian vessels to back away to a safe distance.
"Throughout the interaction, US forces proactively communicated with the IRGCN vessels and executed pre-planned responses to reduce the risk of miscalculation, avoid a collision, and to de-escalate the situation," Rebarich said.
According to CNN, this is the second time this month that Iranian ships have harassed US vessels in the Persian Gulf.
On April 2, four ships from the IRGC Navy, including three fast attack craft and a support vessel, came within 70 yards of two Coast Guard cutters.
According to Rebarich, the Iranian ships had then harassed the Coast Guard cutters for approximately three hours, during which the US ships issued bridge-to-bridge warnings and sounded five short blasts from the ships' horns. Iran's Harth 55 came within 70 yards, or less than a football field, of two US ships.
Rebarich said that the Iranian actions on April 2, "were deemed unsafe and unprofessional," increasing the risk of collision. In addition, the actions of the Iranian ships ignored internationally recognized maritime customs and international regulations for preventing collisions at sea.
According to CNN, The Coast Guard ships are part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the largest Coast Guard unit outside the United States.
This comes amid talks over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal signed between the US and Iran in 2015. US and Iranian officials said last week progress has been made in talks about rejoining the nuclear deal.
It also follows leaked audio of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif criticizing the IRGC and assassinated top general Qasem Soleimani.
The US is prepared to lift sanctions imposed on Iran to resume mutual compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this month.