Four Iranian boats “harassed” a US Navy warship near the Persian Gulf, ignoring orders to back off, Reuters reports. A defense official said two of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels came within 300 yards of the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze on Wednesday at a high rate of speed—an "unsafe and unprofessional” move, per the official. The Nitze made 12 efforts to contact the Iranian boats, got no reply, and fired 10 flares at them. The Nitze changed course to avoid the vessels, the AP reports. "The Iranian high rate of closure... created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze," the official said. "For four decades the Revolutionary Guard have been told that America is the greatest threat to the Islamic Revolution," an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells Reuters.
The incident in the Strait of Hormuz follows several other tense encounters between the two countries in recent months near Iran’s territorial waters. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, confirmed the incident, telling the AP it is time to question what is the “new normal” in relations with Iran. "We have to be mindful that we don't become complacent as things get steadily busier, steadily more engaging and that we're thoughtful about how we approach those challenges,” he said. In January, Iran detained 10 US Navy sailors who strayed into Iranian waters. The same month, Iran flew an unarmed drone over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier. In December, Revolutionary Guard vessels fired rockets near a US warship in the Strait of Hormuz. (Read more USS Nitze stories.)