On Monday the U.S. Naval ship USNS Rappahannock fired shots at a smaller vessel that apparently disregarded at least one warning shot and several attempts to get the vessel to halt its approach. The USNS Rappahannock is a civilian operated oil tanker that is responsible for supplying fuel to Navy vessels.
According to preliminary reports the US Naval ship operated according to standard protocol in attempting to alert the ship and stop their approach. When the smaller vessel was 1,200 feet from the Rappahannock, it responded by firing off one warning shot. When the smaller vessel failed to heed that warning a decision was made to disable the vessel. In a statement from the Navy, prior to firing the disabling shots, other non-lethal methods were attempted to stop the further approach of the smaller vessel.
This incident took place near Jebel Ali, a port area 35 miles south west of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. After the incident, dozens of officials from the police and the United Arab Emirate surrounded the smaller vessel. The smaller vessel has been described as a small, white pleasure craft with three outboard motors. According to officials investigating, speaking strictly under conditions of anonymity, one person was killed and three others injured in this event.
The United Arab Emirate is considered an ally of the United States, and this particular port, Jebel Ali, is a frequent resting stop for sailors. Incidents in which speed boats from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard pass too close to Naval ships have been of concern to officials in Washington. In 2008, 5 small Iranian vessels passed close to another Naval ship, the USS Hopper, and this raised concerns with then president Bush. Bush called this a “provocative act” on the part of Iran.
The US Navy has recently beefed up security in the Gulf, incorporating more minesweepers and other military warships. This is being done in response to the threat by Iran to close off the Strait of Hormuz. This particular strait provides a passageway for one-fifth of the world’s oil. This threat was made in response to a call for tougher sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
This incident is still under investigation and officials are not revealing any more information. The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi has referred all inquiries to the US Navy and its officials.