Video shows Iran firing rockets near US warships

Teheran denies allegation; dispute highlights ongoing tensions between the two nations

WASHINGTON • The United States Navy has released a black-and-white video that it said was taken by an American helicopter, showing an Iranian Revolutionary Guards vessel firing unguided rockets near warships, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran, on Dec 31 last year, denied that its Revolutionary Guards vessels had launched the rockets as the US claimed, with a Revolutionary Guards spokesman saying the "false" accusation was "akin to psychological warfare".

The US Navy said the infrared radar footage, released last Saturday, showed an Iranian "fast, inshore attack craft" launching several rockets on Dec 26 "in close proximity" to the Truman, guided missile destroyer USS Bulkeley, French naval frigate FS Provence and commercial ships in the waterway.

The video, taken by a Seahawk helicopter, runs for about 30 seconds.

The US Navy said the rockets were fired "within an internationally recognised maritime traffic lane", as the Truman and the other ships were passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf.

The US Navy said the rockets were fired "within an internationally recognised maritime traffic lane", as the Truman and the other ships were passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf.

The US military, on Dec 29, made public its account of the incident.

A US Central Command spokesman at the time called the Iranian actions "highly provocative, unsafe and unprofessional", and said they called into question Iran's commitment to the security of a waterway vital to global commerce.

The Central Command also said at the time that Iran had provided only 23 minutes of advance notification of its intention to fire rockets.

It said the Truman and the two other warships were part of the US-led coalition supporting air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group.

The dispute underscored the ongoing tensions between the US and Iran, despite last year's international agreement between Teheran and six world powers, including the US, to remove certain sanctions on Iran, in exchange for the country accepting limits on its nuclear programme.

And in an ongoing spat between Teheran and Riyadh, which started when Saudi Arabia executed Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan 2, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi accused Teheran of "provocative acts", as top Arab diplomats met yesterday for talks on the row.

Mr Arabi was addressing Arab League foreign ministers gathered in the group's Cairo headquarters for emergency talks requested by Riyadh on the spat.

He called on diplomats to "adopt a strong and clear common position, calling on Iran to stop all forms of interference in the affairs of Arab nations".

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, at the meeting yesterday, also accused Iran of interfering in Arab affairs and undermining regional security.

On the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran that ensued after Mr Nimr's execution, he said: "These attacks clearly reflect the approach that the Iranian policy is taking in our Arab region specifically... with its interference in the affairs of the (region's) states and instigation of sectarian strife, and shaking security and stability."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Video shows Iran firing rockets near US warships'. Print Edition | Subscribe