Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief on Thursday, April 23 warned the U.S. of a “decisive response” after President Donald Trump said he instructed the U.S. Navy to “shoot down” Iranian boats that harass American ships in the Persian Gulf.
“We declare to the Americans that we are absolutely determined and serious … and that all action will be met with a decisive response that will be efficient and quick,” Major General Hossein Salami told state television.
“We have also ordered our naval units to target [U.S. boats and forces] if they try to endanger the safety of our ships or boats of war.”
Tensions between decades-old foes the United States and Iran escalated again last week with Washington accusing its arch enemy of harassing its ships in the Gulf.
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had successfully launched the Islamic Republic’s first military satellite into space.
The U.S. president said he had “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
Trump later clarified that he had not given the military new rules of engagement. Pentagon officials on Wednesday affirmed that their ships retain the right to self-defense and will respond with “overwhelming force” if threatened by Iranian boats.
Salami said last week’s maritime incident was the result of “unprofessional and dangerous behavior by the Americans in the Persian Gulf.”
The Guards commander also alleged that U.S. actions in the sensitive waterway had been hampered by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“In last week’s incident, there was operational turmoil and disorder among U.S. naval units at sea,” said Salami.
This, he added, was an indication that the “command and control of their military units may have been weakened by … the coronavirus disease.”
The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that disease is not hampering its forces preparedness to deter Iran and other adversaries.
Iran and the United States are among the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trump administration is engaged in a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran’s government, accusing Tehran of expanding of its military influence in Iraq and Syria.
Washington’s effort includes sweeping economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy but nonetheless have shown little to no sign of deterring the IRGC’s military activity in the region.
With reporting from AFP.