Iran has warned US President Donald Trump the US fleet dispatched to the Persian Gulf will face “dozens of missiles” if it “attempts any move”, raising the prospect of a direct, explosive military confrontation.

And US officials have said there was an “increasing possibility” of Tehran or its regional proxies launching strikes against US commercial ships including oil tankers as the situation continues to deteriorate. The ISNA news agency quoted hardliner Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad in the city of Isfahan as saying: “Their billion-dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile. “If they attempt any move, they will face dozens of missiles because at that time government officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

In the latest tense exchange between Tehran and Washington, Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards separately said Iran would not negotiate with the United States, a stance likely in part to be intended to discourage Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies from taking up a US offer of talks.

Mr Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders talk with him about giving up their nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation.

Trump made the offer as he increased economic and military pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports this month while beefing up the US Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, an official said on Friday.

The US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed as a warning to Iran, passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday and American B-52 bombers have also arrived at a US base in Qatar, US Central Command said.

Iran has dismissed both moves – which the United States said it took after US intelligence signaled possible preparations by Tehran to attack U.S. forces or interests – as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate it.

In an advisory posted on Thursday, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) said that since early May there had been an increased possibility of Iran or its regional proxies taking action against US and partner interests.

These included oil production infrastructure, after Tehran threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz chokepoint through which about a fifth of oil consumed globally passes.

The advisory said: “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.

“Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and interests.”

Millions of barrels of oil pass daily through the various bottlenecks from Middle East oil producers to global markets.

US-Iranian tensions have risen since Mr Trump withdrew a year ago from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and major powers and began ratcheting up sanctions to throttle Tehran’s economy, and these were further tightened this month.

Thousands of Iranians took part in state-sponsored marches on Friday to support the Government’s decision to reduce limits on its nuclear program.

Iran has threatened to go further if other parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – fail to shield it from US sanctions.

State TV showed protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches had been held across Iran.

Protesters were shown chanting: “America should know, sanctions have no effect!”

Source » express