In at least the second provocation by Iranian vessels in international waters, the US Navy fired warning shots at boats that acted aggressively towards our ships. After attempting several times to signal the craft, the Navy let loose with a barrage of M-16s and .50-caliber guns. The Iranians got the message:

The incident took place in the Gulf, in international waters dozens of miles from the Iranian coast, the US said.

The vessel – the Westward Venture – was working for the US Military Sealift Command under a 65-day charter, an official told the BBC.

The Iranaian boats withdrew soon after the warning shots were fired.

US officials say the Westward Venture used the correct measures prior to firing the shots: it sounded its horn, and gave the Iranian boats a verbal warning, before firing flares, 50-caliber machine guns and M-16s in the direction of the boats.

Shortly after the incident, a routine inquiry was made of the Westward Venture by Iranian authorities, according to US officials.

Tehran wants to probe American naval defense protocols just short of initiating hostilities. The Navy, mindful of an incident in which Iranian boats captured 15 British sailors and later paraded them for propaganda purposes, have thus far shown no particular friendliness. After the USS Cole bombing in 2000, the US Navy doesn’t let anyone get close without clear intent and communication being known first.

The ultimate goal could be to intimidate the US out of the Gulf, which the Iranians consider their private lake. If so, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will be sorely disappointed, at least in this President. If he keeps provoking the Navy, one day he may be a few boats short.