BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump orders Navy to ‘shoot down and destroy’ Iranian gunboats if they harass American ships in the Gulf in escalation of tensions with Tehran
Reuters, AFP and Luke Kenton for the Daily Mail – April 22, 2020
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, a week after 11 vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came dangerously close to U.S. ships in the Gulf.
‘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 in a tweet, hours after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said it had launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit.
The tweet came amid a re-escalation of tension, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards saying hours earlier that that they had launched the country’s first military satellite, which the U.S. regards as a cover for missile development.
‘The first satellite of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been successfully launched into orbit by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,’ said the Guards’ Sepahnews website.
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
The satellite ‘orbited the earth at 264 miles’, said the website.
‘This action will be a great success and a new development in the field of space for Islamic Iran,’ the statement added.
The surprise operation comes more than two months after Iran launched but failed to put into orbit another satellite that it said had no military dimensions.
Washington says that these satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution on ballistic missiles.
U.S. officials fear that the launches could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Iran maintains it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, claiming its aerospace activities are peaceful and comply with the UN’s orders.
It is not believed that Iran has the technology to miniaturize a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile.
And Trump’s intervention is a week after nearly a dozen Iranian naval vessels repeatedly harassed and made ‘dangerous’ approaches to American ships conducting operations in the Persian Gulf near Kuwait in a tense exchange that last more than an hour.
A group of 11 ships with Iran‘s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet at close range and high speeds – with one passing within just 10 meters of a Coast Guard cutter.
The ‘dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision,’ a statement from U.S. Central Command said, adding that U.S commanders on the scene ‘retain the inherent right to self-defense.’
The American vessels included the USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy destroyer; the USS Lewis B. Puller, a ship that serves as an afloat landing base; and the USCGC Maui. Coastguard vessels are part of U.S. forces in the Gulf.
The ships were operating with U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters, the statement said.