The Pentagon, this morning, said at least five Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy patrol vessels approached the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris cargo ship at 4 a.m. eastern time as it was transiting the Straight of Hormuz and directed the ship to proceed further into Iranian waters.  This was done at the request of the Iran Ports Authority under a court order, according to the English service of Iran’s Fars News Agency.

When the ship’s captain declined, the Iranian ships fired shots across the bridge of the cargo vessel. After shots were fired, the ship proceeded into Iranian waters near the vicinity of Larak Island. It was boarded by members of the Iranian coast guard and is now being held in Iranian waters with the crew still aboard.

The U.S. assets are being sent to monitor the situation and Naval Forces Central Command has been communicating with representatives from the shipping company,according to Pentagon Spokesman Col. Warren.

The Maersk Tigris issued a distress call, prompting U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to send the U.S. destroyer Farragut (DDG-99) to the site as well as aircraft to observe the interaction, Col. Warren said. The destroyer is currently on the way, with no clear timetable of when it will arrive on the scene.

Although the Maersk Tigris was in Iranian waters, ships regularly transit the narrow strait without incident under the recognized authority of “innocent passage” which allows ships to pass through as long as they follow international law.

The Maersk Tigris is a 837-foot container ship that was headed to the port city of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, according to ship tracking site Vesselfinder.com. Its last port of call was in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, where it traveled from Turkey.

There are no Americans aboard the cargo ship and currently no injuries reported among the crew.  There are Thirty-four crew members reported aboard.  The Pentagon stated that it is unclear what sort of cargo the ship is carrying.

So why could this mean war with Iran?

The Marshall Islands gained independence from the United States in 1986, but the U.S. continues to have “ full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, ” according to the State Department’s website.   If this ship, or her crew, are harmed in anyway outside the bounds of international law, the United States is REQUIRED to act.

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