The last time Iran and the U.S. engaged in naval skirmishes, it didn’t end well for Iran. Back in 1988, an Iranian mine nearly sank the missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts. The explosion resulted in Operation Praying Mantis, a coordinated attack on Iranian oil rigs and naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
On Saturday, the day after Christmas, the Iranians decided to conduct military training exercises in the Strait of Hormuz. The strait is one of the most active shipping passages in the world. The U.S. and France both have aircraft carriers stationed in it.
The Iranians announced their intention to conduct military exercises; 23 minutes later, the exercises began. The USS Truman, the USS Bulkeley and the French frigate FS Provence were in the area, and the unguided rockets fired by the Iranian military were fired within 1500 yards of the Truman–but not in a direction toward the Truman or other vessels. After the rockets were fired, the Iranian vessels moved out of the area.
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While no one was hurt in the exercise, the U.S. military didn’t seem to appreciate the apparently provocative move by the Iranians. According to Fox News, U.S. Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines commented on the matter. “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,” he said.
The missile firing is the latest in a long line of provocations from Iran dating back to earlier this year. Per Fox News:
While the United States has complained previously about other Iranian war games and maneuvers there, Saturday’s incident comes after a series of weapons tests and other moves by Tehran following this past summer’s nuclear deal.
In the time since, Iran has conducted missile tests criticized by the U.S., as well as aired footage on state television of an underground missile base. Iran also sank a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier in February near the strait. It seized a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and later released it in May after earlier surrounding U.S.-flagged cargo ship transiting the strait.