The U.S. Navy says it only received a radio message from Iranian naval vessels about an ongoing Iranian exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, countering Tehran claims of a tense encounter between the two fleets, The Washington Post reports.
Lieutenant Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, says an American warship in the Gulf of Oman heard the message on Monday. Morgan said on Tuesday that the American vessel “continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission.”
Iranian media had alleged its navy either “warned off” or fired “warning shots” at Saudi or American vessels during an ongoing two-day annual drill in the strait. The U.S. Navy and Iranian forces routinely have tense encounters in the Persian Gulf.
Iranian military leaders claimed Monday that they threatened two American-led vessels in international waters amid a series of new war drills being carried out by the Islamic Republic, according to regional reports and U.S. military officials who confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon contact with the Iranian vessels.
U.S Navy’s statement comes as Iran carries out a several-days-long series of war drills in the Sea of Oman, off the country’s southern border, military leaders claim to have warned off at least two vessels led by U.S. coalition forces in the region. U.S. military officials confirmed being in contact with Iranian forces, which is just the latest in a series of provocative interactions between the Iranian military and the United States.
“One U.S. warship operating in the Gulf of Oman received a transmission from Iranian maritime forces announcing an Iranian exercise,” Commander William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told the Free Beacon Monday evening.
U.S military officials say the military vessel continued to carry out its mission, despite the Iranian contact and did not alter its course.
“The U.S. warship continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission. U.S. warships continue to sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Urban said.
Iranian military leaders had a different version of events, claiming in comments that two U.S.-led warships were instructed to leave the waters where the drills were being held after they were detected by drone surveillance.
“This morning and in the first hours of the drills, two warships of the coalition which had approached the drills zone to monitor the Iranian Navy units were identified by the Navy drones. After declaring the issue to the drills’ tactical base, the patrolling and reconnaissance planes flew over the coalition warships and warned them [to leave the region] and the warships left the drills zone,” Rear Admiral Seyed Mahmoud Moussavi, who is leading the Iranian war drills, was quoted as telling Iran’s state-controlled press outlets.
Iran is in the midst of another set of war drills aimed at testing new military hardware. Iran’s Army, Navy, and Air Defense forces are all participating in the war drills, which will continue for at least the next two days, according to Iran’s media. The Islamic Republic is testing a range of rockets and laser-guided cannons, according to a readout. Tehran also is testing various light and heavy submarines, as well as helicopters and other air defenses.
Forces from the Army Ground Force, Air Force, Navy, and the Air Defense have taken part in the joint military drill. During the first day of the war game, combat choppers of the Army Ground Force Airborne Division opened heavy fire on the hypothetical enemy’s naval vessels approaching the coast.
Commanders say the exercise is aimed at promoting the capabilities of the Army forces and conveying the message of peace and friendship to the regional countries. The Iranian armed forces hold routine military drills throughout the year.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, told the Free Beacon that Iran has a history of not respecting international waters.
“The problem with the Iranian leadership is that they don’t understand that international waters are international. Then again, respect for international norms has never been Iran’s strong suit dating back to their seizure of the U.S. embassy in 1979, an act, by the way, even the so-called reformists with whom [former Secretary of State] John Kerry fell in love and continue to endorse,” Rubin said.