Iran has responded to a threat by the US president to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian ships. Donald Trump’s initial message was sent over Twitter on April 22; the full tweet said: “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Clarifying at a later press briefing, the president added: “We don’t want their gunboats surrounding our boats and travelling around our boats and having a good time. We’re not going to stand for it…they’ll shoot them out of the water.”
The claim follows an incident two weeks ago, where 11 Iranian gunboats surrounded US warships in a way that US officials described as “dangerous and harassing”. Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, responded to this on state TV saying: “I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens the security of Iran’s military or non-military ships. Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran’s strategic priorities. 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. Americans have experienced our power in the past and must learn from it.”
This has further increased tensions between the two nations, who have a long and complicated history of conflict. The tensions have worsened in recent years following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, and the subsequent death of Iran’s top military commander in a US drone strike in Iraq, in January.