New details about U.S.- Iran confrontation

January 11, 2008 9:12:55 PM PST
The U.S. Navy said Friday that one of its ships fired warning shots at a small Iranian boat in the Strait of Hormuz in December during one of two serious encounters that month. The USS Whidbey Island fired the warning shots on Dec. 19 in response to a small Iranian boat that was rapidly approaching it, said a U.S. Navy official.

"One small (Iranian) craft was coming toward it, and it stopped after the Whidbey Island fired warning shots," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

It was the first official confirmation that the United States had fired warning shots in any recent confrontation with Iran in the Gulf.

In the second incident that month, the USS Carr encountered three small Iranian craft on Dec. 22, two of which were armed, said the official. The USS Carr did not fire warning shots, but sent warning blasts on the ships whistle, which caused the boats to turn around.

The reports come a day after the United States lodged a formal diplomatic protest with Iran over an incident Sunday in which Iranian speedboats harassed U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

Adm. William J. Fallon, the top U.S. military commander in the Mideast, said Friday that Iran runs the risk of triggering an unintended conflict if its boats continue to harass U.S. warships in the strait.