Trump Instructed Navy to ‘Destroy’ any Iranian Gunboats Harassing US Ships

President Trump said Wednesday that he’s instructed the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships, in the wake of a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. 

No additional clarity or guidance on the instructions purportedly delivered to the Navy have been provided.

The president’s announcement follows an incident last week in which a swarm of nearly a dozen Iranian gunboats sailed out to harass US Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in the Persian Gulf.

US Naval Forces Central Command said last Wednesday that 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” repeatedly crossing the bows and sterns of the US ships at one point closing within 10 yards of one of the Coast Guard cutters.

The US military said that the US vessels issued multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and sounded their horns, but the Iranian boats did not respond for about an hour.

After finally responding, the Iranian vessels moved away from the American ships.

At the time of the incident, the Navy expeditionary mobile base vessel USS Lewis B. Puller, destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, and patrol ships USS Firebolt and USS Sirocco, together with the Coast Guard cutters USCGC Wrangell and USCGC Maui, were carrying out joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

The US military has been experimenting with having Army helicopters take off from Navy ships to “enhance the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats,” such as the gunboats Iran routinely sends out to harass both military and commercial vessels.

In its statement following last week’s run-in with Iranian forces, US Naval Forces Central Command concluded by saying that “US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

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