ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
Small Iranian military motorboats approached U.S. vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz twice last week but the Pentagon said the interactions were not seen as hostile, even at a moment of heightened tensions between the two countries.
Video released by the Pentagon on Friday (January 13) showed the armed boats with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' navy approaching within several hundred yards of the USS New Orleans, an amphibious transport ship, on January 6, a U.S. military official said.
The same day, a similar incident occurred with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Adak, with the Iranian boats seen riding in its wake, guns visible.
The incident was "routine," the Pentagon said, and within known, predictable, posturing behavior during Strait of Hormuz transits.
The approaches come at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran as Washington cranks up pressure on Tehran because of its nuclear enrichment program. The United States believes the program aims to produce nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it is for energy production.
The U.S. has increased economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran has threatened action if another U.S. carrier moves into the Gulf and has said it might close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway through which much of the region's oil is shipped.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that closure of the strategic waterway would be seen as a red line by the United States and would require a response.
Nine American vessels have passed through the strait since the start of the year. It was not immediately clear whether any of the other seven have been approached in this manner by Iranian vessels.