The US Navy has been instructed to ‘shoot down and destroy’ Iranian gunboats if they harass the country’s ships, US President Donald Trump said.
The order followed a US accusation last week that Iranian fast vessels were “harassing” US Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf
The US Fifth Fleet tweeted on April 16 that 11 Iranian vessels had “repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” but there were no casualties.
“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” the president tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged on Sunday that it had an encounter with US warships, but claimed without evidence that US forces initiated the incident.
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
“We advise the Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Gulf and to refrain from any adventurism and false and fake stories,” the April 19 statement from the IRGC said.
“They should be assured that the Revolutionary Guards navy and the powerful armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran see the dangerous actions of foreigners in the region as a threat to national security and its red line and any error in calculation on their part will receive a decisive response.”
Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said the Navy stood by its earlier description of the incident.
“Regarding any other interactions with our ships, US forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner,” Lt. Pagano told The Associated Press.
The US Navy released video and photographs of the incident showing small Iranian fast boats coming close to American warships as they operated in the northern Arabian Gulf near Kuwait.
The announcement came just hours after Iran announced a successful satellite launch after four failed attempts in the last year.
The US has called the satellite programme a cover for its ballistic missile development.