File Photo: An Iranian boat fires a missile during naval war games in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz (Photo: Reuters)
Iranian naval vessels conducted rocket tests last week near U.S. warships and commercial traffic passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the American military said Wednesday, causing new tension between the two nations after a landmark nuclear deal.
The vital strait, a narrow waterway between Iran and Oman that is the route for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea, is crucial for ships taking part in the war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. In the past, Iran has threatened to block the strait, which lies at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, in retaliation for international sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, but no longer issues such warnings.
While the United States has complained previously about other Iranian war games and maneuvers there, Saturday's incident comes after a series of weapons tests and other moves by the Islamic Republic following the nuclear deal.
Iranian media and officials did not immediately discuss the tests Wednesday.
Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement that Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval vessels fired "several unguided rockets" about 1,370 meters (1,500 yards) from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, the USS Bulkeley destroyer and a French frigate, the FS Provence. Raines said commercial sea traffic also was nearby.
Raines said the Iranian vessels announced over maritime radio that they'd carry out a live fire exercise only 23 minutes beforehand.
Iran's "actions were highly provocative," Raines said. "Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law."
NBC News first reported news of the rocket tests.
U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based in nearby Bahrain, on the southern coast of the Gulf.
The test comes after Iran and world powers led by the U.S. agreed to a landmark nuclear deal to limit the Islamic Republic's enrichment of uranium in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. While heralded by moderates in Iran, hard-liners have criticized the deal.
In the time since, Iran has conducted missile tests criticized by the U.S., as well as aired footage on state television of an underground missile base.