TEHRAN – The Iranian navy “categorically” denied on Sunday that it had shined a laser at a U.S. helicopter in the Persian Gulf back in June.
“Recently, the U.S. Navy has claimed that the Iranian Navy had shined laser at a helicopter of its Fifth Fleet while it was flying over the Strait of Hormuz, an issue the Navy of Islamic Republic of Iran Army strongly denies,” said Rear Admiral Hossein Azad, the commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone.
The comments come one month after U.S. Navy Commander Bill Urban said an Iranian naval patrol boat had shined a laser at a U.S. Navy’s helicopter flying over the Strait of Hormuz.
The commander further said the Iranian vessel had turned its spotlight on two Navy ships that were moving through the strait, claiming the Iranian boat had come within 800 yards of the USS Bataan, scanned it from bow to stern with the spotlight and shined the light on the USS Cole.
The helicopter had automatically fired flares in response.
The denial follows a measure on Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives to which requires the Pentagon to consider options for negotiating an Incidents at Sea Agreement with Iran and other countries operating in the Persian Gulf.
The communication hotline is expected to soothe concerns over de-escalation of sea incidents in the Persian Gulf into direct military engagement between Iranian and U.S. naval forces.
Both the Iranian navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps keep regular patrols in the region around the clock.
Iran says the U.S. Navy’s strong presence in the Persian Gulf has jeopardized the security and stability of the Strait.
The world’s most important oil chokepoint, the Hormuz Strait is a transit route for nearly 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil exports out of the Persian Gulf.
Iranian and U.S. warships had nearly 30 “dangerous” and “unprofessional” encounters in 2015, according to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, with a 50-percent increase by August 2016.
The fleet conducts operations in the Middle East that are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States’ commitment to their security.