The four-star commander of the U.S. Central Command got an unexpected, up close and personal look Monday at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy when a U.S. Navy warship he was on was approached by four armed Iranian craft in the Arabian Gulf.
Gen. Joseph Votel was on board the USS New Orleans in the Gulf when four Iranian ships came within about 500 yards of the U.S. ship, according to U.S. defense officials. There were reports of a fifth Iranian ship but those could not be confirmed.
Three of the ships were believed to be various kinds of small attack craft that the Iranians routinely use to patrol Gulf waters.
The encounter has been deemed safe and routine by the U.S., one defense official said, noting that Iranians often shadow U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf.
There was no indication the Iranians knew Votel was on board.
There have been at least six close calls this year between U.S. and Russian planes and ships. Those episodes have taken place all over the world, from the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean to the Baltic and Black Seas.
Many experts believe they are a show of force by Russian President Vladimir Putin and, unlike the incident with Votel, have been deemed by the U.S. to be risky and dangerous.
In the most recent incident a couple of weeks ago, a Russian ship came within 150 yards of a U.S. Navy vessel, the USS San Jacinto, that was sailing in the eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. Navy described the maneuver in a statement as unsafe, “erratic” and “aggressive.”