- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Iranian military vessel fired warning shots across the bow of a Singaporean merchant vessel on Thursday in international waters, but did not pursue the ship after the United Arab Emirates came to its aide, according to a defense official.

Thursday’s incident comes just a couple weeks after another aggressive act by Iran when it seized a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, holding the ship and crew for a week before releasing them.

The Singaporean ship was in the Arabian Gulf when an Iranian coast guard ship fired warning shots and pursued the cargo ship. The Singaporean vessel moved toward United Arab Emirates waters and called for assistance. Once the United Arab Emirates coast guard responded, the Iranian ship broke off its pursuit, the official said.

The Defense Department confirmed there was an incident between Iran and a cargo ship, but could not provide further details immediately.

“We are aware of a situation between a commercial vessel and Iranian patrol craft in international waters that occurred today. We have no other information to provide at this point,” Maj. Roger Cabiness II said.

Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said no U.S. military personnel or assets were involved in the situation.

In a similar incident, the Iranian military fired warning shots at the Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel Maersk Tigris in the Strait of Hormuz about two weeks ago and seized the ship for a week over a business dispute with the shipping company, Maersk Line.

As a result of that, the U.S. began accompanying U.S. and British cargo ships through the strait if requested for the days surrounding the incident.

Col. Warren said there are no plans now to restart the accompaniment mission, but noted that the U.S. maintains a robust presence in U.S. Central Command and can always reassess military needs if the situation changes. He said the cruiser Normandy, which conducted the accompaniment missions, remains in the region.

On April 24, prior to the Maersk Tigris incident, four Iranian patrol boats harassed the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington, following the cargo ship for 15 or 20 minutes in an action deemed aggressive by the ship’s master, Defense News reported.

When pressed on the fact that there have been multiple incidents of aggressive Iranian behavior in recent weeks, Col. Warren acknowledged that there does seem to be an uptick in recent incidents threatening maritime security.

“That does seem to be more than there have been in the past, there’s no question about it,” he said. “This is something that we continue to watch and we’re concerned with. We’ll see how this develops.”

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