A U.S. naval vessel fired shots at a small vessel in the Persian Gulf on July 16, apparently killing one person onboard. U.S. officials confirm that the USNS Rappahannock, a fueler, fired on what they called a “small, white pleasure craft” some 10 miles from the Dubai port of Jebel Ali. The officials said that the small vessel appeared to be headed to the port of the United Arab Emirates. When the smaller boat was 1,200 yards from the Rappahannock, at least one warning shot was fired from a .50 calibre machine gun. Since verbal warnings had also failed, the decision was made to disable the boat with further lethal force.
"In accordance with Navy force protection procedures, the sailors on the USNS Rappahannock ... used a series of non-lethal, preplanned responses to warn the vessel before resorting to lethal force," the U.S. Navy declared in a statement. "The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun."
U.S. Navy spokespersons described the response as standard procedure when a small boat approaches a U.S. Navy vessel too closely. The boat also made a series of maneuvers, but the officials emphasized they were waiting for more details. about what exactly happened.
Jebel Ali is 22 miles from Dubai and 37 miles from Abu Dhabi. It is the largest man-made port in the world and the largest port in the Gulf region and in the Middle East.
The oil reserves in the UAE are the sixth largest in the world and crucial to the economies of the United States, Japan, and Europe. An interruption of the delivery of vital oil, such as that caused by the 1970s mining of the Persian Gulf by the Islamic government of Iran, would play havoc with oil supplies and prices worldwide. Author/journalist Edwin Black in his book The Plan, notes that the United States has no effective plan in place should a significant oil interruption take place. Iran’s naval and other military exercises in the Persian Gulf this year, coupled with its threats against Israel and refusal to provide transparency in its alleged atomic weaponization program, have led to increasing tensions with the West.
The nature of the vessel that came under fire near Dubai on July 16 is still unclear.