Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says Iranian vessels came within 137 metres of US ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
A United States Coast Guard ship fired about 30 warning shots after 13 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and other American Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said on Monday.
This is the third encounter between the US and Iranian vessels in the past month and the second time the US has had to fire warning shots because of what they said was unsafe behaviour by Iranian vessels in the region, after a relative lull in such interactions over the past year.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the warning shots were fired after the Iranian fast boats came as close as 137 metres (450 feet) of six US military vessels, including the USS Monterey, that were escorting the guided-missile submarine Georgia.
The US Coast Guard cutter Maui fired the warning shots from a 0.50-calibre machinegun before the Iranian vessels left, Kirby said.
Kirby said the first round was fired when the Iranian boats got to within 300 yards (274 metres) of the US ships, and the second when they got within 150 yards (137 metres).
“It’s significant … and they were acting very aggressively,” he said, adding that the number of Iranian vessels was more than in the recent past.
The latest incident comes as world powers and Iran seek to speed up efforts to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord.
US officials returned to Vienna last week for the fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its terms about a year later.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters on May 6 there is hope for the agreement if Iran makes a political decision.
“Is it possible that we’ll see a mutual return to compliance in the next few weeks, or an understanding of a mutual compliance? It’s possible, yes,” the official said during a telephone briefing.
The Trump administration also sanctioned Iran after it left the accord.
Iran has long maintained that no further actions should be taken on its part until the US – the first party to withdraw from the agreement – returns to compliance.
Tehran also wants the sanctions lifted.