'We'll shoot them out of the water': Trump doubles down on threat to destroy Iranian gunboats that get too close to US ships
President Donald Trump doubled down Wednesday evening on a threat to destroy Iranian gunboats that get too close to US ships.
Earlier in the day, he tweeted that he has ordered the US Navy to "destroy" Iranian gunboats that "harass our ships at sea."
At a White House press briefing later in the day, he said that "we don't want them anywhere near our boats" and that "we'll shoot them out of the water."
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump doubled down Wednesday evening on a tweet he sent earlier in the day threatening to eliminate Iranian gunboats that "harass" US ships.
"We don't want their gunboats surrounding our boats and traveling around our boats and having a good time," Trump said at a White House press briefing. "We don't want them anywhere near our boats."
"You know the order I gave. I don't think I have to say it again. But, I have given that order."
Early Wednesday, the president tweeted that he has ordered the US Navy to "destroy" Iranian gunboats that "harass our ships at sea."
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
Speaking at the press briefing later in the day, Trump said he issued a similar order at the beginning of his administration and that the harassment of US vessels that was seen frequently during the Obama administration was not seen during his.
But, he acknoweldged, that changed recently.
Last week, a swarm of nearly a dozen Iranian gunboats "conducted dangerous and harassing approaches" against US Navy and Coast Guard vessels, US Naval Forces Central Command revealed in a statement.
"We're not going to stand for it," Trump told the press. "If they do that, that's putting our ships at danger, our great crews and sailors in danger. I'm not going to let that happen."
"They'll shoot them out of the water," he said, referring to US warships firing on Iranian gunboats.
Asked if he would be changing the rules of engagement for the US military to suit the order, the president said that the US is covered because "that's a threat when they get that close to our boat."
"They have guns. They have very substantial weapons on those boats," he continued. "But, we'll shoot them out of the water."
Pentagon leaders said Wednesday they interpreted the president's tweet as a warning to Iran, one they welcomed. Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that it is the military's responsibility "to apply the clear direction from the commander-in-chief into lawful orders that we execute."
"We know how to translate that into our rules of engagement. We don't talk about rules of engagement, but they're based on the inherent right of self-defense," he explained.
"What that means," he said, "is if we see a hostile act, if we see hostile intent, we have the right to respond, up to and including lethal force."
He stated US commanders are ready to respond with "overwhelming lethal force" if threatened by Iran and their is a need for the military to defend itself.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths