President Trump Orders Navy to 'Destroy' Iranian Boats that Harass US Vessels

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Iranian Navy vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships off of the North Arabian Gulf.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020. (U.S. Navy)

The commander in chief has issued a stark warning to Iran a week after 11 Iranian boats swarmed U.S. ships operating in the Middle East.

"I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

The Navy last week released photos and a video showing the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' navy boats making what the service described as repeated "dangerous and harassing approaches" near U.S. ships operating in international waters. The boats swarmed the Navy and Coast Guard ships for an hour.

Related: Swarm of Iranian Boats Harassed US Ships in Persian Gulf, Navy Says

The incident was well reported at the time, but was mentioned Wednesday morning on "Fox & Friends" when the hosts were discussing Iran's new claim that it launched a military satellite into orbit. Trump is known to watch and respond to issues mentioned on "Fox & Friends."

Navy officials last week said the Iranian fast boats' aggressive actions "increase the risk of miscalculation and collision." The boats were traveling at high speeds near the four Navy ships and a pair of Coast Guard cutters.

The Iranian boats came within 10 yards of the Coast Guard's Island-class cutter Maui and within 50 yards of the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller, officials said. That was despite repeated radio warnings and blasts from the ships' horns.

Navy officials warned that its commanding officers "retain the inherent right to act in self-defense."

Tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran. Until earlier this month, the U.S. Navy had two aircraft carrier strike groups in the region to temper Iranian aggression. One of those strike groups remains.

Those tensions were especially elevated in January after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed a prominent Iranian military general, Qasem Soleimani. Iran retaliated by launching ballistic missiles on U.S. troop locations in Iraq, leaving more than 100 service members with brain injuries.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Iran's Guard Says it Launched Satellite amid US Tensions

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