TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief on Thursday warned the US of a “decisive response” after President Donald Trump said he had ordered the US Navy to destroy Iranian boats that harass American ships in the Gulf.
Iran and the United States have appeared to be on the brink of an all-out confrontation twice in the past year.
Decades-old acrimony between the two sides worsened in 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew from a deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Tensions escalated further in January when a US air strike killed Qasem Soleimani, the top Iranian general who headed the Guards’ foreign arm, the Quds Force.
“We declare to the Americans that we are absolutely determined and serious... and that all action will be met with a decisive response that will be efficient and quick,” Major General Hossein Salami said.
“We have also ordered our naval units to target (US boats and forces) if they try to endanger the safety of our ships or boats of war.”
The latest confrontation came after the United States accused Iran of harassing its ships in the Gulf last week.
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday as the Guards said they had launched Iran’s first military satellite.
The US president said he had “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”.
In response, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran that represents US interests, state media said.
Salami said last week’s maritime incident was the result of “unprofessional and dangerous behaviour by the Americans in the Persian Gulf”.
The Guards commander also indicated that US actions in the sensitive waterway had been affected by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“In last week’s incident, there was operational turmoil and disorder among US naval units at sea,” said Salami.
This, he added, was an indication that the “command and control of their military units may have been weakened by... the coronavirus disease”.
Iran and the United States are among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
Tehran has called for holding Washington accountable for the sanctions that have hampered its efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
“The United States’ cruel and unilateral sanctions against Iran constitute a clear violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, and the United States must therefore be held accountable by the international community,” said Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2020