On Wednesday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to address further concerns over the country's relations with Iran. Despite the fact that the world — and the United States, in particular — are in the midst of a pandemic, the threat of war is still imminent. And Trump is stoking those fires and taking foreign policy into his own hands via his Twitter account, potentially bringing the U.S. closer to the brink of war with Iran.
“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” the president tweeted. Trump's tweet did not clarify whether the action to "destroy" Iranian gunboats was an actual order or another threat between two countries that are longtime enemies. But, the reaction to this statement caused quite a stir on Twitter.
Following the tweet, “shoot down” and "gunboats" both began trending, with most of the responses mocking President Trump’s choice of words and observing that it’s not possible to shoot a boat down because, well, boats don’t fly.
Others are pointing out that Trump might be trying to create a distraction from ongoing criticism of his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. Vox journalist Aaron Rupar observed that the tweet came approximately an hour and a half after Fox & Friends had a segment about Iran launching a new military satellite; the president is known to watch the program every morning, and the content of his tweets is often influenced by the discussion on the show.
The Fox & Friends segment about the military satellite referenced an April 15 incident in which, according to a U.S. Navy press release, 11 Iranian military vessels “repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches” to Navy ships in international waters in the Persian Gulf. The video the Navy released of the incident shows multiple Iranian boats passing in front of a U.S. naval vessel. The Iranian vessels appear to have men manning guns at the front of those ships. The guns don’t appear to be pointed at the U.S. ship, which sounded a horn multiple times as the Iranian vessels approached.