By Oren Liebermann, CNN
An Iranian patrol boat tried to temporarily blind US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by shining a spotlight toward the vessels and crossing within 150 yards of them on Monday night, US Central Command said in a statement.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat acted in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner,” CENTCOM said, which violated international standards for safe maritime behavior.
The guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans and expeditionary sea base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller deescalated the situation by using audible warnings and non-lethal lasers, according to CENTCOM. The ships were transiting through international waters in the strategic waterway when the incident occurred.
“This dangerous action in international waters is indicative of Iran’s destabilizing activity across the Middle East,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said in the statement.
“The Iranian vessel attempted to blind the bridge by shining a spotlight and crossed within 150 yards of the US ships — dangerously close, particularly at night,” the statement added.
The tense interaction at sea, though not uncommon between Iranian and US ships in the region, comes at a particularly fraught time in relations between the countries. The US has sharply condemned Iran’s crackdown on widespread protests against the regime and its morality police, while Iran’s Supreme Leader has blamed the US for the unrest. The US has also exposed and criticized Iran for providing armed drones to Russia which Russian forces have used in Ukraine.
IRGC vessels have occasionally attempted to intercept or harass US Navy and Coast Guard ships operating in the region. In the past, the incidents have prompted US ships to fire warnings shots at the IRGC vessels.
Over the weekend, the US Navy intercepted more than 50 tons of ammunition rounds and “other illegal weapons” sent from Iran to Yemen, marking US 5th Fleet’s second such seizure within a month, according to US Naval Forces Central Command.
Last week, the Navy revealed the docking of a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in the Indian Ocean. Though the docking at the island of Diego Garcia happened in late-October, the publication of a ballistic missile submarines operations, which are normally classified, was a clear message to US adversaries in the region.
“They should take from this that a ballistic missile submarine which is undetectable can operate in any ocean for an extended period,” a military official told CNN.
During the stop in Diego Garcia, the USS West Virginia switched out its crew, allowing it to stay deployed longer. CENTCOM commander Gen. Erik Kurilla visited the same submarine at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea in late-October.
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