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Watch: Implications of President Trump’s tweet to ‘shoot down and destroy’ Iranian gunboats

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

President Donald Trump’s tweet Wednesday comes in the wake of an April 15 incident in which 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels harassed six U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Paul Hamilton, the expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, Cyclone-class coastal patrol boat Firebolt, Cyclone-class patrol ship Sirocco, and Coast Guard ships Wrangell and Maui were approached by Iranian vessels during the incident.

With individual ship commanders already permitted to defend themselves against enemy vessels, the president’s added instructions could carry an array of implications.

Strikes against enemy ships in the region, for example, would warrant involvement by U.S. Central Command and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

Additionally, tensions with Iran may only be compounded by the country’s soaring death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Strain between the two nations continued to escalate Tuesday as Iran launched a military satellite, dramatically revealing what experts described as a secret military space program that could advance its ballistic missile development.

The launch comes as Iran has abandoned all the limitations of its tattered nuclear deal with world powers that Trump unilaterally withdrew America from in 2018. Trump’s decision set off a monthslong series of escalating attacks that culminated in a U.S. drone strike in January that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq, followed by Tehran launching ballistic missiles at American soldiers in Iraq.

Watch our team’s analysis of the tense encounter, and stay with Military Times for updates to this evolving conflict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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