U.S. Denies Iran’s Report of Confrontation with American Ship

An Iranian military vessel confronted an American warship in the Gulf and warned it to stay away from a damaged Iranian fishing boat, Mehr news agency reported on Sunday, but the U.S. Navy denied any direct contact with Iranian forces.

According to the Navy’s Public Relations Department, a fishing boat named Shams, which was stationed 45 miles from the coast of Jask port for an engine test, was hit by technical breakdown as it was seeking help from the Iranian Army’s Navy. Upon receiving a request for assistance from the troubled vessel, the 2nd Velayat Naval Region deployed Falakhen missile boat for rescue operations in order to prevent further injuries to the fishing ship.

A U.S. Navy ship which was approaching the position of the fishing boat received warning from Falakhen and was forced to leave the area, according to Tasnim news agency. The agency did not specify when the incident took place.

In a statement, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) said that the coastal patrol USS Tempest, operating in the Gulf of Oman on Sept. 6, heard the distress call of an unidentified small boat about 75 nautical miles from the Tempest’s position, Reuters reports.

At the same time the motor vessel Nordic Voyager, much closer to the boat in distress, offered help and had made visual contact with it. The Tempest offered to support the Nordic Voyager which declined the offer, NAVCENT said.

Following the radio traffic from a distance, USS Tempest heard the Nordic Voyager coordinate additional Iranian Navy help for the vessel in distress to tow it back to Iran.

“At no time was there any direct contact between the U.S. and Iranian maritime forces,” NAVCENT spokesman Chloe Morgan said.

Tensions have been on the rise between the Iranian and U.S. military in the Gulf in recent months. In August, an unarmed Iranian drone came within 100 feet (31 meters) of a U.S. Navy warplane as it prepared to land on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf, a U.S. official said at the time.

And in July, a U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots when an Iranian vessel in the Gulf came within 150 yards (137 meters) in the first such incident since President Donald Trump took office in January, U.S. officials said.

Years of mutual animosity had eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year as part of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But serious differences remain over Iran’s ballistic missile program and conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as Iran is constantly violating the agreement.

Although the Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, recently declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, it warned that the regime was not following the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it. During the presidential campaign last September, Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harass the U.S. Navy in the Gulf would be “shot out of the water.”