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James Stavridis

How to Deal With Iranian Speedboats

Trump’s tweet about destroying them for harassment risks turning a tense situation into a war.

Hostile nuisance.

Hostile nuisance.

Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump sent a warning shot across the bow of Iran last week, tweeting that any further “harassment” of U.S. warships by Tehran’s navy in the Gulf would result in the destruction of the Iranian units. The tweet was evidently a response to videos of Iranian ships behaving badly, and intended as a warning to stop small surface combatants – some armed with short-range missiles or guns – from buzzing by U.S. ships at close and therefore dangerous range. 

The Department of Defense, when queried about what many see as Trump’s new rules of engagement, simply said that commanding officers already have all the tools they need to respond appropriately to Iran. Translation: Thanks, but we’ve got this covered, Mr. President. How should the U.S. and its allies think about this latest twist on Iran’s campaign to threaten stability in the region?