"We will respond decisively to any sabotage," Head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Major General Hossein Salami warns, while oil prices soar amid Iran-US saber-rattling.
Iran will destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards told state TV on Thursday a day after US President Donald Trump warned Tehran over "harassment" of US vessels.
"I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran's military or non-military ships," Major General Hossein Salami said.
"Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran's strategic priorities."
"I am telling the Americans that we are absolutely determined and serious in defending our national security, our water borders, our shipping safety, and our security forces, and we will respond decisively to any sabotage," Salami said.
"Americans have experienced our power in the past and must learn from it."
Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, but said later he was not changing the military's rules of engagement.
Earlier this month, the US military said 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."
Tehran blamed its longtime adversary for the incident.
Also on Thursday, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represents US interests in the country, over the recent tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Iran's military satellite
Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated since 2018, when Trump withdrew from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.
Stoking antagonism over Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes, Iran's Guards said on Wednesday they had successfully launched the country's first military satellite into orbit.
The announcement drew protests from Washington.
The US military says the same long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could allow Tehran to launch longer-range missiles, perhaps someday with nuclear warheads.
Tehran denies US assertions that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
Oil prices soar
Oil prices soared as escalating tensions between the US and Iran in the crude-rich Gulf lent support to markets battered by a coronavirus-triggered demand shock and concerns about storage.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 11.8 percent to $22.79 a barrel in Asian afternoon trade.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate jumped 14.37 percent to $15.76 a barrel, extending big gains from a day earlier.
Still, prices remain at multi-year lows as lockdowns and travel restrictions to fight the virus batter demand and storage facilities are overwhelmed by excess supply.
Markets have had a rollercoaster ride this week, with US crude falling into negative territory for the first time as traders sought to offload oil but could not find buyers as storage facilities are reaching capacity.
The Gulf is a major gateway for oil to reach international markets, and previous spikes in tensions between US and Iranian vessels have seen crude prices similarly surge higher.