On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had directed the Navy to “shoot down” Iranian gunboats that harass U.S. ships, however, officials within the Pentagon stated that they had not received any new directives.
Around 8 a.m. Trump tweeted, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
The tweet came about the same time that Iran launched a military satellite and just a week after the Pentagon publicly accused Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf of harassing U.S. ships.
NBC News reports that three U.S. defense officials told them that they were taken completely off guard by Trump’s tweet because he had not ordered a change to policy or rules of engagement.
During a press briefing later in the day, the Defense Department characterized Trump’s tweet as a “warning.”
“What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense, and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense,” said Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.
“It was a very useful thing he put out,” Norquist added.
Gen, John Hyten the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs stated that the “president’s message was crystal clear,” adding, “I like that the president warned an adversary.”
A spokesperson for the Iranian government stated the country would not “succumb to intimidation and threats.”
“In the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, while all governments are focussed on combatting this menace, the question is what is the U.S. military doing in Persian Gulf waters, 7,000 miles from home,” said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations.
“Iran has proven that it will not succumb to intimidation and threats, nor will it hesitate to defend its territory – in accordance with international law – from any and all aggression,” he added.