In a message of defiance and apparent preparedness for escalation, Iran warned on Monday that it could capture American vessels after the Pentagon beefed up its presence in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
"The Islamic Republic is capable of reciprocating any mischief by the Americans … including through seizure of their vessels in reciprocation," said Brig. Gen. Ramezan Sharif, spokesman for Iran's hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in comments covered by Fars News Agency.
The reaction came one day after the United States sent a 3,000-strong contingent of US Marines and personnel to the Red Sea. Earlier last month, the US military also dispatched F-35, F-16 and A-10 warplanes along with Navy destroyers to the Persian Gulf. The reinforcement, according to US officials, is meant to conduct joint patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway of utmost vitality to the global oil trade.
The United States has said the presence is specifically aimed at curbing Iran, which has been "harassing" commercial vessels in the strategic waters. The US Navy has counted 20 cases of harassment, among them attacks or seizures, by the IRGC over the past two years alone, describing Iran as "a clear threat to regional maritime security and the global economy."