An Iranian naval vessel fired several rockets close to an American aircraft carrier and destroyer and a French frigate in the Strait of Hormuz, the United States Navy confirmed on Wednesday, calling the action “highly provocative.”
The rockets came within 1,500 yards of the aircraft carrier’s right-hand side, but they were not fired in the direction of military and commercial vessels, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the United States Fifth Fleet, said in a statement.
“Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law,” Commander Stephens said.
The military action, which occurred on Saturday, was first reported by NBC News on Tuesday.
The rockets came close to commercial traffic and three vessels — the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, the destroyer Bulkeley and the French frigate Provence — that are part of a military coalition fighting the Islamic State, Commander Stephens said.
Iranian officials declined to comment publicly, but the semiofficial Tabnak news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying that the rockets had been fired to warn the Truman away from “a forbidden zone” in the Persian Gulf in keeping with “normal procedure.”
Tabnak said that Western news reports about the episode were an attempt to “undermine Iran’s capability to provide regional marine safety.”
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most strategically important passageways, in particular for the global oil supply chain, connecting the Persian Gulf to the open sea.
To protect its considerable interests there, the United States deployed warships to the area to defend American vessels in April after Iran seized a cargo ship owned by the Danish company Maersk that was traversing the strait.
The two countries quickly backed away from a possible military confrontation, which occurred amid the delicate negotiations over thenuclear accord that was reached in July between Iran and six major world powers, including the United States and the European Union.
In recent weeks, however, tensions between the United States and Iran have risen. Congress recently adopted restrictions barring foreigners who have visited Iran from entering the United States under a visa-waiver program; lawmakers said the steps were a response to terrorism, but Iranian leaders, eager to expand commercial links after years of sanctions, criticized the move.
Read more: NY Times