The U.S. Navy warned on Tuesday that vessels in the Persian Gulf should stay at least 100 metres away from U.S. warships or will be “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures.”
The statement issued by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command claimed that it was intended to “enhance safety, minimize ambiguity and reduce opportunities for miscalculation”.
“Our ships are conducting routine operations in international waters wherever international law allows, and do not seek conflict, however, our commanding officers retain the right to self-defense if deemed necessary,” the statement added.
Tuesday’s warning comes a little over a month after the Pentagon claimed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy took “dangerous and provocative” actions near U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.
Six U.S. military vessels were conducting training operations in international waters when 11 Iranian ships “crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” according to a U.S. Navy statement.
President Donald Trump subsequently announced via Twitter that the United States would destroy Iranian gunboats that harass American 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,” the president wrote.
In subsequent developments, Iran’s Supreme Leader announced on Wednesday that the country would “support and assist any nation or any group anywhere” in its struggles against Israel. His comments follow the announcement by the President of the Palestinian Authority that it is withdrawing from all agreements with Israel and the US due to Israel’s intention to formally annex large swathes of the West Bank.
“The Zionist regime has proven it won’t abide by any treaty & understands no logic except force,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wrote in a Wednesday statement posted on Twitter as a series of tweets. “The nature of the Zionist regime is incompatible with peace, because the Zionists seek to expand their territories & will certainly not be limited to what they have already occupied.”
Khamenei also clarified that the declarations were not directed against Jewish people generally, but at the perceived need for ‘regime change’ against the Israeli leadership that insists on expanding areas of occupation and annexing territories beyond Israel’s internationally recognized borders.
“Eliminating the Zionist regime doesn’t mean eliminating Jews. We aren’t against Jews. It means abolishing the imposed regime & Muslim, Christian & Jewish Palestinians choose their own govt & expel thugs like Netanyahu. This is ‘Eliminating Israel’ & it will happen,” the Shiite religious leader explained. “A proposal for a referendum to choose the type of govt for the historical country of #Palestine was registered with the UN as offered by Iran. We say the true Palestinians with Palestinian roots of at least 100 years, and Palestinians living abroad, choose the govt of Palestine.”
“Comprehensive struggles by the Palestinian nation – political, military & cultural – should continue till the usurpers submit to the referendum for the Palestinian nation. This nation should determine what political system should rule there; struggle must continue until then,” Khamenei continued.
“We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this.”
King Abdullah II of Jordan has also warned of ‘massive conflict’ if Israel attempts to annex additional territory.
The area Tel Aviv seeks to annex is part of what is known as ‘Zone C’ under the Second Oslo Accords in 1995, a part of the West Bank subjected to Israel military control. However, the area Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed annexing also includes the Jordan River valley. The Israel Defense Forces have used their military control over the area to systematically evict Palestinian villages from the fertile land along the River Jordan for decades, later turning the land over to Israeli settlers who now number close to 400,000 in the zone.