Iran threatened on Saturday to gun down two U.S. Navy surveillance planes that were flying in the Persian Gulf in close proximity to the Islamic Republic’s territory, Fox News reported Tuesday, citing three defense officials.
On Sept. 10, a Navy P-8 Poseidon with a crew of nine and an EP-3 Eries with a crew of roughly 24, were flying a reconnaissance mission 13 miles off the coast of Iran, in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, according to officials.
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Iran’s territorial waters—like all nations–extend 12 miles into the sea, according to international maritime law.
The Iranian military told the U.S. planes during their flight to either change course or risk being shot down.
"We wanted to test the Iranian reaction," one U.S. official told Fox News when asked why the jets were flying close to Iran.
The two planes chose to ignore the warning since they were in international airspace, allowing them freedom of flight.
"It’s one thing to tell someone to get off your lawn, but we weren’t on their lawn," the official continued. "Anytime you threaten to shoot someone down, it’s not considered professional."
One of the three U.S. defense officials told Fox News that the behavior of the Iranian military was considered "unprofessional" and another said it was "unsafe" because no Iranian missile launchers were close by.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, has that Iran’s leadership is conducting this aggressive behavior "to show their influence and authority in the region." He lambasted Iran’s actions in the Persian Gulf as "just plain unprofessional" and "unsafe" during a press briefing at the Pentagon last month.
This is not the first time Iran has shown hostile behavior towards the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf, Fox noted.
Last month, Iranian fast-boats harassed U.S. Navy warships in the Persian Gulf on at least five occasions. One incident resulting in three warning shots being fired from a U.S. Navy coastal patrol craft, when an Iranian vessel ignored repeated radio calls to change course. On another occasion, an Iranian boat stopped 100 yards in front of a U.S. Navy ship forcing it to take evasive maneuvers.
Over the weekend, a senior Iranian military commander dismissed claims that his vessels had harassed US Navy ships in in the Persian Gulf saying his nation acted in accordance with internationally recognized maritime law.
In July, days after the one-year anniversary of the nuclear agreement, Iran attempted at least their fourth ballistic missile test in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the nuclear agreement.
In January, Iran took 10 US Navy sailors captive after their two patrol boats traveled into Iranian waters before releasing them 16 hours later.
In December, an Iranian missile boat fired several unguided rockets close to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier transiting the Strait of Hormuz.