Pentagon accuses Iran of 'unsafe' conduct after it approached US warship


The Pentagon accused Iran of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct on Monday after an Iranian military helicopter approached the USS Essex in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday that helicopter flew approximately 25 yards off the port side of USS Essex and circled the ship three times.

At one point, the helicopter went as low as 10 feet off the surface of the ocean. 

“There was no impact ultimately to the Essex transit or their operations,” Kirby told reporters. “But that doesn't mean that this wasn't an unsafe and unprofessional act,” Kirby said. 

The helicopter approached the Essex last Thursday, but video emerged over the weekend in Iranian media of the helicopter appearing to fly close to the Essex, CBS News reported. 

Kirby didn’t elaborate on how the crew of Essex responded, but said it took the “appropriate force protection measures” they felt were necessary and acted in accordance with international law. He also didn’t specify the rules of engagement that the crew follows for when non-ally forces fly helicopters close to the U.S. military.

“This one ended peacefully, but it doesn't mean it was safe and professional. It absolutely wasn't,” Kirby said. “And, again, our commanders have the right of self-defense, they have to make those calls in the moment.  There are rules of engagement that help guide them.”

The Navy has previously called out “unsafe and unprofessional” encounters with Iranian forces.

In May, the Navy called out the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, a branch of the Iranian armed forces, after a fast in-shore attack craft conducted maneuvers while near U.S. naval vessels that were in the Strait of Hormuz.

Monday’s announcement comes days after Iran said its military warned off U.S. RQ-4 and MQ-9 drones that approached during its annual war games exercises.

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