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Iran v USA: Tehran beefs up naval capability and issues chilling warning to US

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State television reported the arrival of new Ashura-class speedboats, Zolfaghar coastal patrol boats and Taregh submarines and military chiefs were quick to let Washington know about the additions to the fleet.

Speaking at a ceremony in Southern Iran, Revolutionay Guards’ navy chief Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said: “We announce today that wherever the Americans are, we are right next to them, and they will feel our presence even more in the near future.”

Iran and the US have appeared to be on the brink of an all-out confrontation twice in the past year.

The latest confrontation between the arch-foes came last month when 11 Iranian vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf in what the US military called “dangerous and provocative” behaviour.

The US Navy accused the Revolutionary Guards of harassing its ships and Donald Trump threatened to open fire on Iranian gunboats after if they approached American vessels.

US Navy commanders later repeated the President’s warning to any vessels which come within 100 metres of their ships in the Persian Gulf.

In what is clearly a direct message to Iran, a maritime alert warned “lawful defensive measures” would be taken against any craft that encroached the 100m exclusion zone around US ships.

The notice, issued by the Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command, said: “Armed vessels approaching within 100 metres of a US Naval vessels may be interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures.

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According to Gen Salami, the Guards’ navy had been instructed to expand Iran’s naval power until it can adequately defend “territorial independence and integrity, protect naval interests and pursue and destroy the enemy”.

It comes amid soaring tensions in the Gulf where Iranian gunboats have been approaching US warships at sea.

Decades-old acrimony between the two worsened in 2018 when Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew from a deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Tensions escalated further in January when a US air strike killed Qasem Soleimani, the top Iranian general who headed the Guards’ foreign arm, the Quds Force.

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