Sharif said the security of the strategic Persian Gulf remains among Iran’s top priorities. In the past, Iran has threatened to block the strait, which lies at the entrance of the Persian Gulf.
Several Revolutionary Guard vessels fired the rockets “in close proximity” of the warships and nearby merchant traffic “after providing only 23 minutes of advance notification”, said Raines, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command.
NBC News first reported news of the Iranian rocket fire.
“If such wrong and interventionist actions are repeated by the U.S., the ministry of defense should use all its capabilities to come up with new plans to expand Iran’s missile capabilities”, he added.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration began preparing new sanctions that would target almost a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong for their suspected role in helping develop Iran’s missile program and supporting human-rights abuses and worldwide terrorism, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing U.S. officials.
Officials said the ships were in the “internationally recognised maritime traffic lane” when the Iranian Navy announced over maritime radio that it was about to conduct a live-fire exercise and asked other vessels to remain clear.
This incident takes place within a significant broader U.S.- Iranian context because the much-discussed nuclear deal between the two countries took a major step forward recently. Most famously and tragically, in 1988, the USS Vincennes thought it was under attack and ended up firing on an airliner heading to Dubai, killing all 290 people onboard. The nuclear deal was heralded by moderates such as Rouhani, who staked his reputation on the negotiations, but hardliners in Tehran said it damaged national interests.
“U.S. Navy forces are committed to ensuring the safe and free navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and throughout the region by maintaining a strong presence”, Stephens said. This alarming launch comes after Iran has conducted two advanced missile tests since October in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Iran also sank a replica of a US aircraft carrier in February near the strait.
Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and later released it in May after its forces had earlier surrounded a U.S.-flagged cargo ship transiting the strait.
Provocations like this will further concerns some members of Congress have about the landmark deal on Iran’s nuclear program, especially the sanction relief part of the agreement.