Iranian Military Vessels Harass U.S. Navy Ship

Mark Shiffer

Iranian military vessels harassed an American ship in the latest incident between the rival nations. It was the fourth close encounter in the last month. The incident began when seven Iranian military boats approached the USS Firebolt, which was patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in central Arabian Gulf waters. The area is an important and strategic shipping route where one-fifth of the world's oil supplies flow through.

One of the Iranian military vessels from the Revolutionary Guard Corps then cut in front of the American patrol ship getting as close as 100 yards, reports Reuters. The USS Firebolt was forced to change course to avoid a possible collision with the smaller Iranian military craft. The length of the USS Firebolt is 174 feet.

There have reportedly been 31 similar occurrences this year of Iranian military vessels harassing U.S. ships, almost double the amount from a year ago. A few weeks ago, a U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots at an approaching Iranian military boat, which then turned away. Several days before that, Iranian speed boats approached another American ship and got to within 300 yards. In January, another group of Iranian military vessels intercepted and seized ten American sailors after their patrol boat drifted into Iranian territorial waters. The captured sailors were released the following day.

Relations between the United States and Iran have been rocky for decades. During the 1979 revolution in Iran, 52 American hostages were taken and held for more than a year by Iranian Revolutionary Guards military forces. An American military operation to rescue the hostages during that time failed. In recent years, Washington has been worried about Iranian attempts to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons for military use.

Tensions between the two countries seemed to be easing with the recent signing of an agreement to ease economic sanctions on Iran and a money payment, in exchange for the Iranians curbing their nuclear development program. But major differences continue to simmer over ballistic weapons development and the ongoing Iranian military role in the civil war in Syria and Iraq.

The reason for the latest trend of Iranian military vessels harassing American ships in the Gulf is attributed to different reasons. One is that the Iranian regime is trying to further exert its influence in the area as a regional power, reports CNN. Iran considers the Americans, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to be its main rivals in the Middle Eastern and Gulf regions. Another reason for the recent Iranian provocations may be to get a military reaction from American forces and then use that to stir up popular anger at the United States among the Iranian population.

The Iranian military vessels harassing the USS Firebolt were small and speedy boats known as fast in-shore attack craft. The military crafts are considered separate entities from the regular Iranian navy. The speedboat crews answer directly to the Iranian government. These military commanders are given wider powers to act "boldly and courageously," reports USNI News.

[Photo by Vahid Salemi/AP Images]