US Marines observe Iran fast-attack craft in Strait of Hormuz
US Marines observe Iran fast-attack craft in Strait of Hormuz Reuters

The US Navy on Tuesday issued a warning to mariners in the Gulf to stay 100 meters away from US warships or risk being “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures”, Reuters reported.

“Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a U.S. naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat,” said the text of the notice.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new notice to mariners was not a change in the US military’s rules of engagement.

While no mention was made of Iran in the notice, it follows US President Donald Trump’s threat last month to fire on any Iranian ships that harass Navy vessels.

The Pentagon has stated that Trump’s threat was meant to underscore the Navy’s right to self-defense.

Trump’s warning followed a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

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.

In late April, a spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the Islamic Republic will respond “severely” if US vessels violate its territorial waters.

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.