The head of the U.S. Central Command scolded Iran Tuesday for "provocative" naval actions in the Persian Gulf, following recent close encounters between U.S. warships and Iranian gunboats.
General Joseph Votel spoke just days after the coastal patrol ship USS Squall was forced to fire warning shots to ward off an Iranian gunboat that was closing at high speed on another U.S. vessel nearby. The Pentagon said the Iranian gunboat ignored repeated U.S. warning flares and radio transmissions before turning away.
On Tuesday, Votel called the Iranian actions "very concerning," and said, "We hope to see Iran's naval forces act in a more professional manner." He also said last week's encounter was part of a "recent uptick" in U.S. confrontations with Iranian patrol craft at "choke points" in the Gulf's crowded sea lanes.
Last week, U.S. officials said the Iranian craft came within 182 meters of the USS Tempest, raising the specter of military escalation.
There was no immediate Iranian response to Votel's comments.
But last week, Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted a top Iranian general as saying, "If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it's an invasion, we confront."