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Defense Officials Express Agreement With President's Warning to Iran

April 22, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Defense Department officials are in full agreement with President Donald J. Trump's warning to the Iranian regime on Twitter, senior Pentagon officials said today.

"The president issued an important warning to the Iranians," Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said during a Pentagon news conference today. "What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense, and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense." 

Man speaks from a lectern.
Norquist Presser
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist tells Pentagon reporters that the presidential tweet telling Iran to stop harassing ships in the Persian Gulf is welcomed by Defense Department officials, April 22, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 200422-D-XI929-1006

The president tweeted, "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 Iranian regime has a history of harassing U.S. vessels operating in the Persian Gulf. In the past, small, quick Iranian boats have charged at U.S. ships in international waters. 

The president's tweet does not signal a new policy, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, as U.S. forces in any environment retain the right to defend themselves. "Every ship that deploys in harm's way has the inherent right of self-defense," Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten told reporters. "What that means is if we see a hostile act, if we see hostile intent, we have the right to respond, up to and including lethal force."

Two men stand behind lecterns and speak to people who are social distancing.
Hyten and Norquist
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief reporters at the Pentagon on COVID-19 and a presidential tweet warning Iran, April 22, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 200422-D-XI929-1015

Hyten warned Iran that, if threatened, U.S. commanders "will respond with overwhelming lethal force." 

Norquist said Trump was responding to Iran's poor behavior. "He is emphasizing and warning them about the challenges of what they will create," the deputy secretary said. "I think it was a very useful thing that he put out, and I think it's an important thing for other people to understand and take very seriously."

Hyten emphasized that he thinks it is a good thing that the president warned an adversary. He said that if the Iranians want to go down that path, "we will come, and we will come large."

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