Report: US officials fear top Iranian commanders not in full control of local forces

CNN reports incident in which Iranian aircraft came within 50 yards of US helicopter, risking serious incident.

An MH-60R helicopter, attached to the USS Sampson [file] (photo credit: REUTERS)
An MH-60R helicopter, attached to the USS Sampson [file]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Iranian aircraft "buzzed" a US helicopter in the Persian Gulf recently, leading American officials to question the level of control that Iranian military commanders have over local forces, CNN reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, US military officials believe that the dangerous maneuver, which could have potentially set off an international incident, may have been ordered at the local level, and not by Iran's top military brass.
The incident occurred in March while talks between Iran and world powers were ongoing in Switzerland and was not in keeping with the professional manner in which Iran has conducted military exercises recently, CNN quoted officials as saying.
The American helicopter, a Navy MH-60R, had taken off from an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. The flight was described as a routine patrol in international airspace.
The helicopter was approached by an unarmed Iranian observation Y-12 aircraft which made two passes at the American aircraft before moving off. CNN quoted a US official as saying that the Iranian aircraft had come within 50 yards of the helicopter.
No shots were fired, but the incident is considered a breach and the US is considering lodging a diplomatic protest with Iran, CNN quoted a US official as saying.
Officials said that no Iranian Y-12 observation aircraft were seen in the weeks following the incident, whereas they usually fly over the Gulf frequently, several times a month. This suggests that the buzzing of the American helicopter may have been ordered by a local commander who was later censured for his actions, according to officials.
An American official said that such "buffoonery" could lead to a much more serious incident.
The US Navy is currently patrolling the Gulf of Aden to ensure that Iranian ships are not supplying weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen.