The Iran Revolutionary Guard naval patrol intercepted a U.S.-flagged ship five days before firing shots on the Marshall Island-flagged Maersk Tigris and seizing it, representing what U.S. Defense Department officials call a “pattern of behavior” as Washington and Tehran seek to finalize a nuclear agreement.
At an off-camera news conference, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren confirmed that in addition to the widely reported Maersk Tigris incident Tuesday, the Revolutionary Guard sought to board the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington in international waters last Friday.
Iran claims much of the waters within the narrow Strait of Hormuz, through which some 30 percent of the world’s oil and other trade traverse, is within its territory.
In response to WND questioning, Warren said four Iranian patrol boats approached the Kensington, came astern of the cargo container ship and followed it for some 20 minutes in actions that the master of the Kensington interpreted as “aggressive.”
Warren said there was no U.S. Navy involvement at the time. After the incident, he said that the ship’s captain filed a report with U.S. Navy Command.
Amid the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, Warren said it is unknown why the Iranians “are operating this way.’
“We certainly call on them to respect all of the internationally established rules of freedom of navigation, Law of the Sea, to which (Iran) is a signatory and under established protocols,” he said.
Warren said that at no time did the Iranians attempt to board the Kensington. He also didn’t know what cargo either the Kensington or the Tigris was carrying that would have warranted Iranian focus.
He said that because the Tigris was a Marshall Islands-registered cargo ship, the U.S. has decided, following consultation with authorities there, that it would be subject to U.S. protection.
However, it has now been docked for some three days at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.