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Iran vessels accused of 'harassing' US warships in Gulf

US Navy warship [Justin K. Thomas/Wikipedia]
US Navy warship, 7 March 2017 [Justin K. Thomas/Wikipedia]

The US navy has claimed that 11 Iranian navy vessels came within ten yards of six of its warships, describing the close encounters as "dangerous and harassing approaches".

The incident took place yesterday with footage released by the US Fifth Fleet showing boats belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy.

According to a statement made by the US Naval Central Command (NAVCENT), the Iranian "vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds", reportedly coming within ten yards of the US Coast Guard cutter Maui. Images and video also show the speedboats manoeuvring around the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton.

"US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships' horns and long-range acoustic noise-maker devices, but received no response," the statement said.

READ: The Gulf's coronavirus challenges

PressTV reported that although Tehran had yet to respond to the allegations, it has been "a staunch critic of US imperialist adventurism in the Persian Gulf and the rest of the world", maintaining the right to defend its local interests against US aggression.

The US fleet which also included the expeditionary sea base, USS Lewis B. Puller were reportedly training with US Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters at the time in international waters, alleges NAVCENT.

The incident is also said to have occurred on the same day that the US navy accused a Russian warplane of performing an "unsafe" intercept of one of its surveillance planes over the Mediterranean. On Tuesday the IRGC was also suspected of being behind the seizure of a Hong Kong flagged tanker ship off the coast of Iran, close to the Strait of Hormuz, before being released. No one has claimed responsibility for the seizure.

The incident has cast doubt on the Trump administration's claim earlier in the year that the assassination of the IRGC's Quds Force commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani was part of "restoring deterrence" against the Islamic Republic, although Iran has been negatively impacted with US-imposed sanctions amid the coronavirus pandemic, in particular when it comes to securing medical aid, however the US currently the epicentre of the global outbreak is also undergoing challenges of its own, including an outbreak on board a carrier in the Pacific and over 150 military bases domestically.

READ: 'Iran's real virus figures higher than official ones'

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