Washington (Reuters): A U.S. Navy ship targeted three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down, U.S. officials said on Monday.
The incident, which occurred on Sunday and was first reported by Reuters, comes as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office on Jan. 20. In September, Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harassed the U.S. Navy in the Gulf would be "shot out of the water."
Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a briefing, "This was an unsafe and unprofessional interaction, and that is due to the fact that they were approaching at a high level of speed with weapons manned and disregarding repeated warnings."
Davis said, confirming earlier accounts of U.S. defense officials that the warning shots were fired at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats by the USS Mahan after it established radio contact but failed to get them to slow down.
The IRGC and Trump transition team were not immediately available for comment.
The White House said the Iranian vessels had behaved in an unacceptable manner and that such incidents risked increasing tensions.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press conference on Monday, "At this point the United States does not know what the intentions of the Iranian vessels were, but the behavior is not acceptable given that the USS Mahan was operating in international waters."
Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year after a deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. But serious differences still remain over Iran's ballistic missile program as well as conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
One of the U.S. defense officials said similar incidents occur occasionally.
In January 2016, Iran freed 10 U.S. sailors after briefly detaining them in the Gulf.