The statement comes on the heels of a new spiral of escalation in the region after US President Donald Trump instructed the Navy to destroy any Iranian vessels that approach and intimidate US warships at sea.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned the United States against preparing any military moves in the Persian Gulf, pointing to the historic name of the waterway, Fars news agency reported on Wednesday.
“Here is always the Persian Gulf and will remain the Persian Gulf [forever]. The US should know that the name of this gulf is the Persian Gulf and not the New York Gulf and Washington Gulf”, Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday. “They [the United States] should stop hatching plots against Iran.”
He also underscored that Iran has successfully protected the waterway for years and will continue to do so.
Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman of the Iranian armed forces, echoed Rouhani’s comments, saying on Wednesday that if US forces engage in any acts of aggression against Iran’s territory or its people, Tehran will provide a harsh response.
“The Americans have certainly experienced that if they make the slightest move and aggression against the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters and our people’s interests, they will be slapped in the face stronger than the past because we do not joke with anyone in defending our country”, General Shekarchi said, as quoted by Fars News Agency.
On April 15, the US Central Command said that 11 vessels of the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) had conducted “dangerous and provocative” manoeuvres around US warships in the Persian Gulf for roughly an hour. The Iranian military denounced the accusations as a “Hollywood plot,” responding, in turn, by referring to an earlier incident in which US vessels carried out two consecutive provocative intercepts of an Iranian warship.
Following Trump’s remarks on instructing the US Navy to destroy any Iranian vessels that approach American warships, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the US military should stay out of the Persian Gulf altogether.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated further in early January and have been high ever since the Iranian top military commander, Soleimani, praised for combatting terrorist groups in the region, was killed in a targeted attack near Baghdad International Airport. In retaliation, Iran launched dozens of missiles at two US bases in Baghdad on 8 January, with over 100 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries of various severity as a result of the strikes.