Iran is continuing to threaten the US, with a spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces saying Wednesday the Islamic Republic will respond “severely” if US vessels violate its territorial waters.
The spokesman, Abolfazl Shekarchi, criticized the United States for what he called "causing disturbance" in the Gulf, reported the Xinhua news agency.
Shekarchi also dismissed US President Donald Trump's recent threats as "psychological warfare" with the purpose of attracting public attention ahead of the US presidential election.
Trump last week warned Tehran over its harassment of US vessels, writing on Twitter that he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, but said later he was not changing the military’s rules of engagement.
The warning followed a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this month.
The US military said at the time that 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels from the Guards navy came close to US Navy and coast guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that the incident had taken place, but also claimed that it was American forces who sparked the incident.
"The Americans must have seen that if they take the smallest act of aggression against the Islamic Republic's territorial waters or the interests of our people, they would receive a slap harder than before," Shekarchi was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
Shekarchi’s threats follow a recent attempt by Iranian officials to calm tensions with the US.
On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran will not initiate any war in the region despite US “provocations”.
Iran's military followed Rouahni by saying on Monday it will never be a source of conflict in the Gulf.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated since 2018, when Trump withdrew from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The tensions reached historic heights in early January when top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was eliminated in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at bases in Iraq where US troops were stationed.