The USS.Squall, a US Navy coastal patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian vessel when it came within 200 yards. The incident took place on Wednesday in the northern waters of the Persian Gulf. This is the second encounter between US and Iranian forces at sea this week. On Tuesday, Iranian naval units conducted a high speed intercept of the USS.Nitze, a guided missile destroyer transiting the Strait of Hormuz. Nitze fired warning shots, and made course changes when harassed by four small Iranian vessels. Iran claims that the destroyer was in Iranian waters but US officials insist that Nitze was in international waters.
Confrontations between the US Navy and Iran have become somewhat common this year. The most well known incident is the Iranian seizure of ten US sailors in January. Tehran has become emboldened in it’s drive to limit the US naval presence around it’s territorial waters. Iranian vessels are behaving more aggressively and with little regard for the possible consequences. The US Navy has gone to extremes not to escalate these encounters. Washington has not responded effectively, perhaps out of concern that Iran will use it as an excuse to go back on the terms of the nuclear agreement. The strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz is well known. Right now, Iran is acting like it has a free hand in the Strait and the Persian Gulf as a whole. If the US does not begin reacting properly to Tehran’s provocative behavior, the region could very well become an Iranian lake in the next few years.