Trump threatens to destroy Iranian gunboats harassing US ships

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WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump said he had ordered the US military to attack and destroy any Iranian vessel that harasses US Navy ships.
“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 said on Twitter.
The order came one week after 11 small armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps speedboats swarmed around US Navy and Coast Guard ships in international waters in the northern Gulf.
The incident took place while the US vessels were engaged in exercises as part of their patrols in the region. No shots were fired, but the Pentagon said the Iranians engaged in “dangerous and provocative actions” that risked collision or worse.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boats “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” coming at one point within 10 yards of one ship.
The much smaller IRGC Navy vessels ignored warnings from the US ships for about one hour, before finally responding to radio communications and then leaving, the US side said.
On Sunday, the Revolutionary Guards accused the US Navy of “unprofessional and provocative behaviour” that had interfered with their own exercises, according to Mehr News Agency.

Trump’s statement followed Tehran’s announcement of its first successful launch of a military satellite. Iran said it put its first military satellite into orbit on Wednesday, making it an emerging “world power”, amid rising naval tensions in the Gulf.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hailed the launch as a milestone, in the face of intense US pressure and Washington’s allegations that the space programme is a cover to develop ballistic missiles.
“Today, we are looking at the Earth from the sky, and it is the beginning of the formation of a world power,” the elite unit’s commander Hossein Salami said, quoted by Fars news agency.
Sepahnews, the Revolutionary Guards’ website, said the satellite called Nour had been launched from the Markazi desert, in Iran’s central plateau. The satellite orbited the Earth at 425 kilometres above sea level, said Sepahnews.
David Norquist, the US deputy defence secretary, said the Iranian launch “went a very long way”. The range “means it has the ability once again to threaten their neighbours, our allies. And we want to make sure they can never threaten the United States,” he told reporters.
Iranian state television aired footage from multiple angles of a rocket blasting off into a mostly clear blue sky. The rocket bore the name Qassed, meaning “messenger”, in what appears to be the first time Iran has used a launcher of this type.
Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi took to Twitter to congratulate the Guards’ air force, adding he had visited the launch site three weeks ago.
Iran has repeatedly tried and failed to launch satellites in the past. The most recent attempt was on February 9 when it said it launched but was unable to put into orbit.

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