The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says he has ordered his forces to potentially target the U.S. Navy after President Donald Trump's tweet threatening to sink Iranian vessels.
Speaking on state television on April 23, General Hossein Salami warned that his forces "will answer any action with a decisive, effective, and quick counteraction."
"We have ordered our naval units at sea that if any warships or military units from the naval force of America's terrorist army wants to jeopardize our commercial vessels or our combat vessels, they must target those [U.S.] warships or naval units," Salami said.
Trump tweeted on April 22 that he instructed the U.S. Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." He provided no further details.
Trump's tweet came after the U.S. Navy said last week that 11 IRGC gunboats had carried out "dangerous and harassing approaches" to U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels in the Persian Gulf.
Already tense relations between the two countries were worsened by a U.S. drone strike that killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
On April 22, the IRGC said it launched a military satellite into orbit after months of failed attempts, further exacerbating the situation.
Western governments have not confirmed the satellite reached orbit, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the launch violated a UN Security Council resolution and every country was now obliged "to go to the United Nations and evaluate whether this missile launch was consistent" with the resolution.
On April 23, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who represents U.S. interests in the Middle Eastern country, to complain about Trump's threat.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said that the Swiss envoy was given a message to pass on to Washington that Iran will strongly defend its maritime rights in the Persian Gulf and respond to any threats, according to the IRIB news agency.