Iran war warning: US Navy ready to open fire on ships which come too close

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The notice to mariners comes in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement that any ships which harassed Navy vessels faced turning themselves into targets. The Navy notice states: “Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat.”

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new notice to mariners was not a change in the US military’s rules of engagement.

The Pentagon has previously said Mr Trump’s threat was aimed at underscoring the Navy’s right to self-defence.

The Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement that its notice was “designed to enhance safety, minimise ambiguity and reduce the risk of miscalculation”.

Tension has spiked between Washington and Tehran since Mr Trump’s election as President in 2016.

Last month 11 Iranian vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, in what the US military characterised as “dangerous and provocative” behaviour.

At one point, the Iranian vessels came within 10 yards (nine meters) of the US Coast Guard cutter Maui.

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Mr Trump responded by issuing his warning.

However, Tehran blamed the incident on the US.

The head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards responded to Trump by threatening to destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.

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Already poor relations between the two countries have worsened since Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JPOCA), Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and subsequent reimposition of economic sanctions.

And, in early January, the US killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Iran retaliated on January 9 by firing missiles at bases in Iraq, causing brain injuries among US troops stationed at one of them.

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels were not uncommon in 2016 and 2017, with US Navy ships firing warning shots on several occasions.

However, Iran halted such manoeuvres prior to the incident in April.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump hinted at the possibility of further strikes against Iranian targets.

The President claimed he had “very good information” that Iran-backed militias were planning more assaults.

He added: “If it happens again, that would go up the food chain.

“This response will be bigger if they do something.”

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