13:58 GMT19 June 2021
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    Facing accusations that it acted aggressively toward a US warship in the Persian Gulf this week, Iran has defended its actions. This comes amid reports of a series of close encounters between US and Iranian vessels that took place in the region this week.

    On Tuesday, four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels intercepted the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze near the Strait of Hormuz. US officials described the interception as "unsafe and unprofessional."

    On Thursday, Iranian defense minister Gen. Hosein Dehghan defended Tehran’s actions, adding that the Revolutionary Guard would perform similar intercepts in the future if necessary.

    "If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it’s an invasion, we confront," he told Tasnim news agency.

    Dehghan’s comments came hours before reports surfaced that four similar incidents occurred in the Persian Gulf this week.

    According to US officials, one instance involved the USS Squall. Operating in the Northern Persian Gulf, an Iranian ship came within 200 yards of the American vessel. Crewmembers aboard the Squall fired three warning shots into the water.

    "These were incidents that the crews deemed unsafe," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters on Thursday.

    "These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation and we don’t desire any kind of escalation. Our ships have been operating in that part of the world for years."

    Separate encounters involved two US destroyers, the USS Nitze and Stout, and a another patrol ship, the USS Tempest.

    During the first reported incident, Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the Nitze after crewmembers made a series of attempts to make their presence known. Attempts at making radio contact failed, and crewmembers sounded the ship’s whistle, a naval signal meant to express that the ship is unclear about another vessel’s intentions. The Nitze also fired ten flares, without response.

    "These sorts of unsafe and unprofessional actions can lead to escalation and miscalculation, which may necessitate additional defensive maneuvers," said Cmdr. Bill Urban, public affairs officer for US Naval Forces Central Command, according to Stars and Stripes, in referring to the Nitze incident.

    Both encounters are reminiscent of an instance in January in which two US Navy patrol vessels drifted into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Crewmembers were apprehended by the Revolutionary Guard and nearly sparked an international crisis in the midst of the Iran nuclear negotiations.


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