- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2020

Iran on Thursday hit back at President Trump’s declaration to the Pentagon to retaliate against Iranian ships that harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, and said its navy will “destroy” American ships if threatened.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday said he has authorized the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass” U.S. ships. His tweet came one week after a handful of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats made several threatening approaches to U.S. warships conducting joint operations with Army attack helicopters in international waters.

“I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran’s military or non-military ships,” Major General Hossein Salami told state-television.

“Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran’s strategic priorities.”

U.S. military officials said following the incident that the IRGC navy boats repeatedly crossed in front of and behind the U.S. ships at close range and at high speed. One of the Iranian boats came within 10 yards of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui.

On Monday, the IRGC acknowledged the close encounter with the U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, but pinned the blame on Washington.

“I am telling the Americans that we are absolutely determined and serious in defending our national security, our water borders, our shipping safety, and our security forces, and we will respond decisively to any sabotage,” Gen. Salami continued.

“Americans have experienced our power in the past and must learn from it.”

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have skyrocketed in recent months after the U.S. killed a top Iranian military commander, which led Iran to launch a missile strike on a U.S. military base in Iraq.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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