‘Shoot Down and Destroy…’: Trump Gives US Navy The OK To Retaliate Against Iranian Boats

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

President Trump has authorized the United States Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian vessel that harasses them during their deployment in the Persian Gulf.

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

The Washington Examiner reports:

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said last week that 11 small vessels belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy conducted “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. ships.

The U.S. ships were conducting operations with Army Apache helicopters in the northern Persian Gulf, the statement said.

Trump did not add any context to the tweet but in recent days boats belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard would cross in front of or would ride near American ships. This is a regular occurrence, spanning decades, as the Iranian troops continue to argue against a U.S. presence in the region.

“Last Wednesday, the U.S. Navy said Revolutionary Guard vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of several American ships at close range and high speed in the northern Gulf,” the Associated Press reports. “The American vessels included the USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy destroyer and the USS Lewis B. Puller, a ship that serves as an afloat landing base. The ships were operating with U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters, the statement said.”

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According to the report, the U.S. military forces fired a barrage near the Iranian ships:

According to the Navy, the Americans issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, fired five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no immediate response, the statement said. After about an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away.

Iran claimed the U.S. triggered that episode.

American commanders are trained to make nuanced and careful judgment calls about how to respond to incidents at sea. Rather than immediately resort to the use of deadly force, commanders are expected to act based on the specific circumstances, including the threat to their own crews and adherence to the international laws of warfare. Generally, as in the case of last Wednesday’s incident, warships will issue warnings by a variety of means, including via bridge-to-bridge radio, before taking more direct action.

The Daily Wire reports the U.S. Navy released a statement where they called the Iranian actions “dangerous and provocative.”

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) ‘rules of the road’ or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” they said.

Former Pentagon Middle East policy chief Michael Mulroy said changing the rules of engagement will allow the ships more flexibility in dealing with these potential threats.

“The U.S. Navy has clear rules of engagement issued by the chain of command and reviewed to ensure they are consistent with all applicable laws of the sea and armed conflict,” said Mulroy per Politico. “Any Iranian actions that directly threatens our naval vessels and their crew will be dealt with based on those rules of engagement.”


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