A US Navy patrol boat fired warning shots Tuesday near an Iranian vessel that came close to it during a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf, an American defense official said. The AP reports Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guard later blamed the American ship for provoking the incident. The encounter involving the USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship based in Bahrain as part of the US Navy's 5th Fleet, is the latest confrontation between Iranian vessels and American warships. The Thunderbolt was taking part in an exercise with American and other coalition vessels when the Iranian patrol boat approached it, the official said. The Iranian ship did not respond to radio calls, flares, and sirens as it came within 150 yards of the Thunderbolt, forcing the US sailors to fire the warning shots, the official said.
The Iranian boat went "dead in the water" after the shots and the vessels all left the area without further incident, the official said. Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, meanwhile, blamed the Thunderbolt, saying the American vessel moved toward one of its patrol boats in the incident. It said the Thunderbolt fired into the air "with the intention to provoke and create fear." Iran and the US frequently have tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf, nearly all involving the Revolutionary Guard, a separate force from Iran's military that answers only to the country's supreme leader. The US Navy recorded 35 instances of what it describes as "unsafe and/or unprofessional" interactions with Iranians forces in 2016, compared to 23 in 2015.