U.S. Navy Ships to Accompany U.S.-Flagged Ships in Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP) -

U.S. Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S. commercial ships during their transit through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to ensure they encounter no interference from Iran, U.S. defense officials said Thursday.

The new policy, which has not yet been announced officially, was adopted in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior. Earlier this week Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and have detained it and its crew.

Iran says it intervened with the Maersk Tigris because the Maersk shipping line owes it money awarded in a lawsuit.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the strait last Friday before departing without further incident. The Pentagon later said it considered the incident a provocation.

The strait is narrow and partially within Iranian territorial waters. Under an internationally recognized protocol called “innocent passage,” maritime traffic is permitted to pass through the strait without interference, even if ships at times are in Iranian territorial waters.