An Iranian navy attack craft manned by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) elected to “test fire” a barrage of unguided rockets within yards of American aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman. The Iranian vessel provided a “warning” before the “test fire” 23 seconds before launch in order to prevent reprisals. The warning was broadcast rather than a direct communication between the American and Iranian vessels. The American aircraft carrier was in a recognized international trade lane in the Strait of Hormuz and not in any territorial waters that might be thought to justify such a display.
“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,” US Navy Fifth Fleet Spokesperson Commander Kevin Stephens stated. The Fifth Fleet is also known as Navy – Central Command (USNAVCENT) because it is permanently assigned to US Central Command, which has the area of responsibility that includes the Middle East. At the time of fire the Truman was traveling accompanied by elements of the French navy, which is why CDR Stephens referred to “coalition ships.”
Iran’s ministries of defense and foreign affairs did not issue any comment on the “test fire.”
The provocation is a significant escalation from previous acts of the kind. In 2014, the USS George H. W. Bush was within ten miles of an Iranian “test fire.” That distance was reduced to six miles earlier this year when the launch was conducted near the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In the current event, the American warship was only 1,500 yards from the rockets. It comes the same year that Iran broadcast footage of an attack on a mock-up of an American aircraft carrier by a guided missile.
Tensions have not reach the point of 1988’s battles between the US and Iranian Navy, which followed the striking of an American warship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, by an Iranian naval mine. On that occasion the US Navy sank six Iranian warships, and also attacked two Iranian platforms used for naval purposes.
Although there was no official Iranian statement, the New York Times obtained a quote from someone close to Iran’s Supreme Leader.
Hamid Reza Taraghi, an analyst close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the rocket launch “a minor warning.” Mr. Taraghi has long expressed the view that the nuclear deal did not signal a transformation of the long-strained relations between the United States and Iran.
“The Americans are acting against the Revolutionary Guards Corps in Syria and Iraq, and they are planning to designate the Corps as a terrorist organization,” he said in a phone interview. “This way, there is no reason to think the relations will improve.”