Shocking video footage released last week showed armed Iranian patrol boats harassing a group of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf. In response, President Donald Trump issued a clear warning to the Iranians that any future harassment will result in potentially deadly military action.
Don’t mess with the U.S.A.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet posted a video on April 15 showing approximately a dozen small Iranian patrol boats pulling within firing range of six larger U.S. warships, a threatening action that the Iranian Navy has been known to take in the past.
— U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) April 15, 2020
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
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
If they do it again, “we’ll shoot them out of the water”
Trump replied that the standard rules hadn’t been changed, saying, “We don’t want their gunboats surrounding our boats and traveling around our boats and having a good time. We don’t want them anywhere near our boats. And — so you know the order I gave. I don’t think I have to say it again, but I’ve given that order.”
The president noted that such harassment was routine during the prior administration but has declined in recent years, only to start back up again now. “So if they do that, that’s putting our ships at danger and our great crews and sailors at — in danger,” he said. “I’m not going to let that happen. And we will — they’ll shoot them out of the water.”
Pressed again about potential changes to the rules of engagement, Trump clarified, “No, that’s not rules of engagement; that’s a threat when they get that close to our boat. And they have guns. They have very substantial weapons on those boats.”
“But we’ll shoot them out of the water,” he finished. “Okay?”
Two top Pentagon officials approved of Trump’s strong message, The Washington Times reported Wednesday. “I like that the president warned an adversary. That’s what he’s doing: He’s providing a warning,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.
“If you want to go down that path, we will come and we will come large. So don’t go down that path,” Hyten added. “We understand that direction and every commander deployed has the ability to execute.”
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist also expressed appreciation for the warning and said that all U.S. warships retain the right of self-defense against threatening actions. “If you come across and you’re at a safe distance and you’re waving — that’s one thing. If you have a gun and you point it at me, that’s another thing,” Norquist said. “We know what that line is — we will respond.”
“I think the president’s message was crystal clear,” he concluded.