US President Donald Trump announced via his Twitter that he has given the green light to the American Navy to attack and sink small Iranian military vessels if they start harassing US military ships.

The statement by POTUS comes several months after the two countries were on the verge of open hostilities after a US Air Force strike killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani while the latter was visiting Iraq on a diplomatic mission in January 2020.

A spokesperson for the Iranian Armed Forces has responded to the president's tweet by advising Washington to focus on saving its own military from the coronavirus outbreak instead. Per a 17 April report by the Pentagon, the number of COVID-19 cases within the Department of Defence has reached nearly 5,000.

"Today, instead of bullying others, the Americans should put all their efforts toward saving those members of their forces who are infected with coronavirus", the spokesperson said.

The US Navy has complained on multiple occasions that so-called Iranian fast boats are approaching dangerously close to their destroyers and carriers patrolling the Persian Gulf region. On 15 April, the American military reported that a group of 11 vessels from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy harassed US warships in the northern Persian Gulf.

"The IRGC Navy vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds”, a US Naval Forces Central Command statement said, adding that some passed within 50 yards of the bow of the expeditionary mobile base vessel USS Lewis B. Puller and within 10 yards of a US Coast Guard Island-class cutter.

Trump has raised the issue of Iranian boats allegedly harassing American vessels in the past. He reportedly requested former Pentagon chief James Mattis to come up with a plan to deal with Iranian "fast boats".

US warships firing at Iranian military vessels might potentially lead to a new round of tensions between the two just four months after both ended up on the verge of an open military conflict. The latest escalation happened after the US Air Force killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Iraq on 3 January 2020.

Washington claimed that Soleimani visited the country because he was purportedly planning attacks on American embassies in the region. However, both Iranian and Iraqi authorities denied these unsubstantiated claims revealing that Soleimani had visited Iraq on a diplomatic mission to pass on a message to Saudi Arabia, who had cut all ties to Tehran.

US DoD Publishes Recollection of Troops Who Experienced Iranian 'Retaliatory Strike' on 8 January

The Iranian attack on US military bases in Iraq on 8 January followed an American drone strike that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. Before the attack, Iranian officials had said Tehran would retaliate against US forces for Soleimani's killing.

The US Department of Defence on Tuesday released a 36-page dossier of firsthand accounts from the airmen who were present during the "retaliatory" missile strike by Iran on 8 January.

The document includes stories from soldiers who were at the US bases of Ayn al-Asad, Erbil, Camp Taji, and Al Taqaddum in Iraq during the attack.

Iran warned the Iraqi government about the attack shortly before it happened, and the information was reportedly passed to the Americans. According to the DoD report, the warning gave the base commandors little time to make "life or death decisions based on little information and a lot of gut", many of them thinking that everyone who was left at the airbase would "perish".

The officers there had to quickly compile lists of their personnel divided into two groups: those who should be evacuated and those who would remain to maintain operations, according to the new DoD report.

'Phoenixes Rise From The Ashes'

Lt. Col. Staci Coleman, commander of the Al Asad base, advised her flight commanders to pick those to stay on the base according to their emotional state and combat abilities.

"My flight commanders were responsible for compiling the lists of personnel, and I explained it needed to be divided by combat capability and then by those they believed were emotionally equipped to endure remaining behind for a possible missile attack", she said.

For quite a long time, those evacuated did not know if the personnel chosen to stay behind had survived the attack. Captain Adella Ramos was one of the people chosen to stay at the base without knowing whether she would live through the night.

"The mere seconds following the announcement 'INCOMING' were felt in slow motion. Not knowing if you would be the target was the biggest mental tribulation. I learned there is immense power in brotherhood among my military family. In the face of what I felt was my darkest hour, I was not alone", Capt. Adella Ramos shared in the dossier.

Major Jonathan Jordan, Ayn al-Asad's Director of Operations, was to lead the evacuation of the other half of the team. He shared different emotions in his story, from shame at having to be relieved to guilt and anxiety. While flying away with the rest of the team, he tried to keep up the spirits of the gloomy soldiers who were not sure if they would ever see their comrades again. When the news came that no one was killed, "chills rushed" through his body. 

"As we boarded the buses to the plane back to Al Asad, I looked at my troops, eager to get back and relieved their friends were okay. I took one more opportunity to speak. "Anyone notice our squadron patch is a Phoenix? Phoenixes rise from the ashes", Major Jordan said in the dossier.