By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 8, 2008 - Iranian officials called the buzzing by five Revolutionary Guard speedboats of three U.S. Navy ships "normal," but American officials insist the behavior was reckless and needlessly provocative. The Iranian boats charged at the three warships Jan. 6 as they transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.
President Bush commented on the Iranian provocation during a short news conference at the White House today. "My message to the Iranians is simple: They shouldn't have done what they did," Bush said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called the Iranian action irresponsible and reckless. The Iranian armed speedboats charged at the USS Port Royal, USS Hopper and USS Ingraham as they steamed in international waters. One of the Iranian boats dropped boxes into the water in the path of one of the U.S. ships and radioed to the American vessels that they would explode.
"I found the action by the Iranians quite troubling, actually, and a matter of real concern," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday in California. "This is a very volatile area, and the risk of an incident escalating is real. I think that it is a reminder that there is a very unpredictable government in Tehran. And it would be nice to see the Iranian government disavow this action and say that it won't happen again."
But Iranian officials have not been so forthcoming. Iranian senior Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Reza Tangsiri told the Mehr news agency that Iran has the right to ask any ships to identify themselves upon entering or leaving the Persian Gulf. "It is a basic responsibility of patrolling units of the Revolutionary Guards to take necessary interception measures toward any vessels entering into the waters of the Persian Gulf," Tangsiri said.
The U.S. ships followed well-established procedures during the incident, Whitman said, adding it was fortunate that the Iranian boats peeled off before the U.S. ships had to escalate to the next level.
"Do these incidents give us the opportunity to reflect, reevaluate, readjust? They always do," Whitman said. "But I don't know of any specific measures that were deemed to be inadequate in this case."
Navy public affairs officials said there are video recordings of the incident.