President Trump announced on Wednesday that he had ordered the U.S. Navy to destroy Iranian gunboats if they harass American ships.
“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Last week, Iranian gunboats interfered with a U.S. Navy exercise involving several ships and Apache helicopters that was being conducted in international waters in the Persian Gulf. The navy released video of the incident showing the gunboats repeatedly encroaching upon U.S. ships.
BREAKING: 11 Iranian #IRGCN vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous & harassing approaches against U.S. naval ships operating in international waters of North Arabian Gulf. U.S. crews took actions deemed appropriate to avoid collision.
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) April 15, 2020
The Iranians conducted “dangerous and provocative actions” which “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision,” the U.S. Navy said.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused the U.S. of giving a “Hollywood version of events,” saying the U.S. had interfered with the IRGC’s own ships in early April.
President Trump in early January ordered the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, following the killing of an American contractor and the harassment of the U.S. embassy in Iraq by Iran-backed militias. Iran responded by launching several ballistic missiles at U.S. positions in Iraq, causing numerous concussions and traumatic brain injuries among American servicemen. Iran then accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet taking off from Tehran International Airport.
While tensions between the two countries skyrocketed, in March Trump refrained from retaliating for the killing of two American service members by Iran-backed militias, reportedly fearing that striking Iran in the middle of that country’s coronavirus epidemic would look bad.