This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
President Hassan Rohani has called on Iran’s armed forces to seek regional stability while maintaining vigilance against “provocations.”
The comments on April 24 came after days of rising tensions between Iran and the United States centered on threats involving the two countries’ ships in the Persian Gulf.
Rohani was quoted by state television as telling his defense minister that the country must “carefully follow strategies ensuring the sustainable stability of the region while maintaining vigilance and an authoritative presence in the area.”
State television reported that Rohani also spoke with the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami, referring to “provocative actions by foreigners in the region and the need to maintain vigilance against these moves.”
Salami said on April 23 he had ordered his forces to target U.S. Navy ships if they “jeopardize our commercial vessels,” warning that they “will answer any action by a decisive, effective, and quick counteraction.”
President Donald Trump tweeted the day before that he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass its ships at sea.
Earlier this month, the U.S. military said 11 IRGC naval vessels came close to U.S. ships in the gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative.” Tehran blamed the United States for the incident.
On April 23, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who represents U.S. interests in the Middle Eastern country, to complain about Trump’s threat.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said that the Swiss envoy was given a message to pass on to Washington that Iran will strongly defend its maritime rights in the Persian Gulf and respond to any threats, according to the IRIB news agency.
Antagonism between Iran and the United States has sharpened since 2018, when Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.
In January top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, and Iran retaliated by firing missiles at bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were stationed.
The IRGC further stoked tensions on April 22 with the announcement of the launch of the country’s first military satellite into orbit. The announcement drew protests from Washington, London, and Paris.