Iran denies firing rockets near US warships in Persian Gulf

USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. Picture: AP
USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. Picture: AP
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Iran yesterday denied US accusations of launching a provocative rocket test last week near Western warships in the Strait of Hormuz, dismissing the claim as “psychological warfare” against the Islamic Republic.

General Ramezan Sharif, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman, said his forces did not carry out any drills in the key Persian Gulf waterway.

The denial came a day after Kyle Raines, a US Central Command spokesman, said Guard vessels fired several unguided rockets about 1,370 meters from USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier and other Western warships and commercial traffic last Saturday. The firing came after Iranians announced over maritime radio 23 minutes earlier that the would be carrying out a live fire exercise, according to Mr Raines.

“The Guard’s Navy had no drills in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz and didn’t fire missiles or rockets during the past week and the time claimed by the Americans,” Sharif said in comments posted on the Guard’s website. “Publication of such false news under the present circumstances is more of a psychological warfare.”

The strategic waterway, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes, has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988.

Mr Raines said while the rockets were not fired in the direction of any ships, Iran’s “actions were highly provocative” because firing so close to coalition ships and commercial traffic in international waters is “unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law.”

Sharif said the security of the strategic Persian Gulf remains among Iran’s top priorities.

The Strait of Hormuz is only about 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. Ships traversing the chokepoint have even less room to manoeuvre. The shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, with a two-mile buffer zone between them.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet is based in nearby Bahrain, on the southern coast of the Gulf. It conducts anti-piracy patrols in the greater Gulf and serves as a regional counterbalance to Iran.

US and Iranian forces clashed in the Strait of Hormuz in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war. In 1988, the US attacked two Iranian oil rigs and sank or damaged six Iranian vessels in Operation Praying Mantis. That came after the near-sinking of the missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts by an Iranian mine.