Responding to recent claims by the US Navy that its ships in the Persian Gulf had been harassed by small Iranian gunboats, President Donald Trump said he ordered American warships to open fire on and sink any IRGC vessels that engage in such behaviour.

US House Republican Matt Gaetz has issued a stark warning to Iran cautioning it against any hostile actions against American forces and promising that despite Washington's unwillingness to engage in open hostilities, it will respond to what the lawmaker described as "terrorism".

"The US doesn’t seek a war with Iran [...] under President Trump’s doctrine, we are not going to engage in endless foreign wars, but we will take out terrorists. So, the message is very clear to any Iranian official that would engage in terrorism: Either get your act together or get prepared to meet General Soleimani", Gaetz said referring to the US Air Force operation in January 2020 that resulted in the murder of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was at the time on a diplomatic mission in Iraq.

The lawmaker noted that US President Donald Trump had already warned Iran about the consequences of harassing American warships patrolling the Persian Gulf that has allegedly been taking place recently. He added that any "war" with the US will be lost by Iran, but noted that the ultimate winner in such hostilities would be China, without elaborating why.

Trump announced via his Twitter on 22 April that he had "instructed" the US Navy to "shoot down and destroy" any Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy gunboat that harasses American warships.

The announcement came a week after US Naval Forces Central Command reported that several IRGC Navy vessels "repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds".

A spokesperson for the Iranian Armed Forces lashed back at Trump suggesting that instead of threatening Iran the US should focus on saving their troops from the coronavirus pandemic that so far has infected 5,734 servicemen, according to a Pentagon report. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif added to that, noting that instead of fighting the pandemic, US sailors are engaging in provocations against the IRGC Navy "7,000 miles away from home".

IRGC chief Hossein Salami, in turn, warned that any hostile actions on the part of American warships will be met with a "crushing response", stressing that the security of the Persian Gulf is one of Iran's "strategic priorities".