IRGC boats harassed US Coast Guard in Persian Gulf - report

Three boats swarmed a US vessel in the Persian Gulf just a day after an announcement about talks to return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

A boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) sails, at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019. (photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)
A boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) sails, at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019.
(photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)
A group of three Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCN) vessels harassed two US Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf at the beginning of April, Navy officials told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
The incident took place on April 2, just a day after the US, Iran and European nations announced that they would conduct talks to return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The US and European nations are currently conducting talks with Iran in Vienna.
Some three fast-attack boats and one ship called the Harth 55 swarmed two Coast Guard ships in the southern Persian Gulf, coming as close as 70 yards to the bows of the two vessels, Navy officials stated. One of the two US vessels, the Wrangell, was forced to make defensive maneuvers to prevent a collision.
The incident took place over a three-hour period, with the American crews issuing multiple warnings to the Iranian ships. While Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, told the Journal that the crew of the Iranian Harth 55 responded to bridge-to-bridge radio queries from the American vessels, it is unclear what they stated in the communication.
The US Coast Guard Ships fired warning shots after the IRGCN vessels came close to them, the United States military said on Tuesday.
"The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close range maneuvers," the military statement said.
"The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels," the statement added, using the name for the U.S. Navy patrol ship.
The Navy referred to the incident as "unsafe and unprofessional." This was the first such incident since April 2020 and the first one recorded using a vessel as large as the Harth 55.
In an interview leaked by Iran International and The New York Times on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the IRGC had interfered with diplomatic issues and had attempted to torpedo the JCPOA deal in the past. Zarif specifically pointed to a visit by former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to Moscow in 2015, which he said had the objective to "destroy the JCPOA."
The report comes after a series of alleged maritime incidents were reported between Iran and Israel throughout the region, with attacks on both Iranian and Israeli vessels being reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.