Iran warns it will destroy US Navy fleet with ONE missile as Patriot missiles join warships and B-52 bombers deployed amid fevered tensions

AN Iranian cleric yesterday warned the US its navy fleet could be "destroyed with one missile" as fevered tensions continue to rise between the two countries.

The US Navy and Air Force presence in the Gulf has been beefed up in recent days in response to intelligence alleging Tehran is planning to target American interests.

In response, Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad said: "Their billion(-dollar) fleet can be destroyed with one missile."

The hardline senior cleric in the city of Isfahan added: "If they attempt any move, they will … (face) dozens of missiles because at that time."

"Officials won't be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)".

US INTERESTS TARGETED

US commercial ships including oil tankers could be targeted by the Iranian regime, the US Maritime Administration said on Friday.

A new deployment of Patriot missiles has been approved to face down the threat.

And the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed as a warning to Iran, passed through Egypt's Suez Canal on Thursday on its way to the region.

American B-52 bombers have also arrived at a US base in Qatar, US Central Command said.

Iran has dismissed the moves as "psychological warfare" designed to intimidate it.

TENSE EXCHANGE

In the latest tense exchange, Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards said Iran would not negotiate with the United States.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump urged Iran's leaders talk with him about giving up their nuclear program.

But he said he could not rule out a military confrontation.

Trump made the offer as he increased pressure on Iran – moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports as well as the military deployment.

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

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.

MARAD 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."

HEATED RHETORIC

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 Trump withdrew a year ago from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the US Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said its forces were on a heightened state of readiness.

MARAD said US-flagged ships were encouraged to contact the Fifth Fleet at least two days before sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The fleet's job is to protect commercial shipping in the area.

'SANCTIONS HAVE NO EFFECT!'

Separately, Yadollah Javani, the elite Revolutionary Guards' deputy head for political affairs, said: "No talks will be held with the Americans, and the Americans will not dare take military action against us."

He added: "Our nation … sees America as unreliable."

It echoes a stance Iran has taken since the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal – under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

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.

"America should know, sanctions have no effect!" chanted the protesters.


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