Iran’s defense minister said Thursday his country would confront any foreign vessel that enters its territorial waters, after four Iranian warships sped close to two US Navy destroyers with their weapons uncovered in the Strait of Hormuz.
Hossein Dehghan did not comment directly on Tuesday’s affair. Though he insinuated that the incident occurred inside Iranian territory, US officials have stated it took place in international waters.
The USS Nitze shot warning flares, sounded its whistles and attempted unsuccessfully to communicate with the Iranian boats during Tuesday’s incident, which American defense officials called “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Dehghan said that his country’s “naval units have the duty of safeguarding the country’s security in the sea and the Persian Gulf.”
“Naturally these boats constantly monitor the developments and foreign vessels’ movements and naturally this happens in the waters of our own country. If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we will give them a warning and if it is an act of aggression, we will confront them,” he said.
US Central Command spokesman Commander Kyle Raines said the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the American destroyer. The Nitze was accompanied on its mission by the USS Mason, another destroyer.
US officials said the encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.
The destroyer had to change course to avoid a possible collision, even though it was near offshore oil rigs.
“Nitze also changed its course multiple times in close proximity to offshore oil rigs in an attempt to maintain separation and better understand Iranian intentions,” Raines said Wednesday.
“Eventually, the Iranian vessels slowed before proceeding outbound,” he said.
“We assessed the interaction as unsafe and unprofessional due to the Iranian vessels not abiding by international law and internationally recognized maritime rules of the road as well as their high rate of closure of Nitze and disregard of multiple warnings by the ship’s whistle and flares,” Raines said of the latest incident.
“The US Navy continues to remain vigilant and is trained to act in a professional manner, and we expect the same of all nations with professional maritime forces.”