While Russia is content to rattle its saber in the skies above the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Syria, Iran is all too happy to menace the Persian Gulf region. In the latest incident this year – which includes Iran's capture of 10 US Navy sailors in January – four Iranian fast attack boats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps performed a "high-speed intercept" of the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze on Tuesday.
A US Navy official confirmed to Reuters that the four vessels came "within a short distance of Nitze, despite repeated warnings," behaving in and "unsafe and unprofessional" manner. The boats were within 300 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which hailed the Iranians 12 times and fired ten flairs in the direction of two of the attack boats – you can spot the flairs in the Navy's video of the incident. When that didn't deter the Iranians, the Nitze changed course to avoid escalating the conflict.
"The Iranian high rate of closure...created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze," the official told Reuters.
Now, if a few small boats sound like the buzzing of flies to a US Navy destroyer, you're mostly wrong – War Is Boring has an excellent piece on the danger posed by Iran's fast attack boats and their anti-ship cruise missiles. The Navy gauged its readiness against a Middle East country armed with swarms of fast attackers in a 2002 exercise called Millennium Challenge 2002. It didn't end well. Citing the Center for International Maritime Security, War is Boring reports the "results [of the exercise] were disastrous for the US, with over a dozen ships destroyed and thousands killed or wounded as a result of asymmetric and unconventional naval warfare."
"If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we will give them a warning, and if it is an act of aggression, we will confront them," IRGC Gen. Hosein Dehghan told Iranian media, Stars and Stripes reports. But if we're hearing the US Navy's video correctly – and figuring out longitude, latitude, and bearing – the Nitze was far closer to the United Arab Emirates than it was Iran, making Gen. Dehghan's statement odd.
You can see video of the intercept above.