A rare moment where Saudi and Iranian vessels were in a direct standoff in what described as Saudi territorial waters has been revealed Saturday by Saudi state news agency SPA.
Saudi Arabia says its coast guard forced no less than three Iranian vessels out of its territorial waters after firing warning shots.
While it's unclear whether the Iranian boats had military personnel or perhaps civilian fishermen, the Saudi maritime border patrol issued repeated warnings, and then fired shots signaling it was ready to engage, SPA described.
As the Iranian vessels pushed forward, the warning shots were then fired according to a Saudi border guards spokesman.
The last similar incident was in 2017 but the reverse situation. In that prior case it was Iran that seized a Saudi fishing boat and arrested fishermen for violating its territorial water. In a tit-for-tat move, Saudi Arabia did the same in 2018.
Iran’s Mehr News says this newest tense incident occurred days ago, on Thursday, and described fishing boats that were blown off course, but that the vessels have now returned to Iran.
Typically hostile incidents don't occur directly between Saudi and Iranian forces, but instead there's been heightening clashes involving proxy forces, whether in Yemen, Iraq, or Syria - where proxy wars involving Sunni and Shia rival forces vying for control have raged for years.
Lately the US itself has warned Iranian fast boats to stay clear of American vessels or risk being fired upon, given over past months a number of "harassment" incidents by IRGC vessels circling larger US warships have been recorded.