The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned Thursday(23) he ordered his forces to potentially target the U.S. Navy after President Donald Trump’s tweet a day earlier threatening to sink Iranian vessels.
Iran separately summoned the Swiss ambassador, who looks out for America’s interests in the country, to complain about Trump’s threat coming amid months of escalating attacks between the two countries.
While the coronavirus pandemic temporarily paused those tensions, Iran has since begun pushing back against the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy both militarily and diplomatically. The Guard also launched Iran’s first military satellite Wednesday, unveiling a previously secret space program.
Speaking to state television Thursday, Guard Gen. Hossein Salami warned his forces “will answer any action by a decisive, effective and quick counteraction.”
“We have ordered our naval units at sea that if any warships or military units from the naval force of America’s terrorist army wants to jeopardize our commercial vessels or our combat vessels, they must target those (American) warships or naval units,” Salami said.
The latest dispute comes after the U.S. Navy said last week that 11 Guard naval gunboats had carried out “dangerous and harassing approaches” to American Navy and Coast Guard vessels in the Persian Gulf. The Americans said they used a variety of nonlethal means to warn off the Iranian boats, and they eventually left. Iran, meanwhile, accused the U.S. of sparking the incident, without offering evidence.
Iran has had tense encounters at sea for years with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of all oil passes. The U.S. has patrolled the area to protect global shipping for decades, something Iran describes as akin to it patrolling the Gulf of Mexico.
Trump on Wednesday, facing a collapsing global energy market and the pandemic at home amid his re-election campaign, tweeted out a warning to Iran that he ordered the Navy to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
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