The Coast Guard cutter Monomoy is seen in 2012. (Navy)
TEHRAN, IRAN — The chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard navy confirmed in remarks published Friday that a U.S. Coast Guard vessel fired on an Iranian fishing boat in the Persian Gulf this week but insisted the incident was not a “clash.”
The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said that personnel on a small boat dispatched from the Coast Guard patrol boat Monomoy fired a single shot on Tuesday when they saw the crew on a nearby Iranian dhow training a .50-caliber machine gun on them and preparing to fire.
No one was hurt in the encounter, which came as the two countries work to hammer out a lasting deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
The shot from the U.S. patrol boat was fired “in the air about three miles away” from the Iranian boat, Adm. Ali Fadavi of Iran’s Guard was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency.
“It wasn’t a clash but a single shot in the air … there was no clash between Iranian and American forces,” Fadavi said, adding that “Americans feared and felt danger from a fishing dhow.”
Dhows are traditional wooden boats common to the region that are typically used for trade and fishing.
American, Iranian and other countries’ military vessels routinely patrol the Persian Gulf, a key route for international oil shipments, usually without incident.
Speed boats from Iran’s Guard, however, have passed close to U.S. ships in incidents that have raised alarm in Washington.
Fadavi, the Iranian officer, also said the Americans “should be fearful” as long as they are present in the Gulf. Tehran has long decried the U.S. presence in the critical waterway as a source of tension in the region.
The West and Israel believe Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at building am atomic weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation and medical research.
While the Guard appeared intent on easing tensions with the United States over the shooting incident, it struck a strident tone toward Israel on Friday, hailing the “victory” of Palestinian militants in this summer’s Gaza war and vowing “defensive” support for the Palestinians.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top commander of the Guard, congratulated the people of Gaza on their “victory” in the 51-day conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group, and said the Palestinians should add to the “volume, range and accuracy of their missiles,” in a statement posted on the Guard’s official website.
He added that the West Bank should also have its own “defense” systems.
Earlier this week, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of the Guard’s paramilitary wing, said “arming the West Bank has already begun and weapons will be provided to the people of the area.” Neither general elaborated on what kind of aid might be provided to the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel but governed by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
Iran refuses to recognize Israel and has long backed militant groups in the region, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.