Trump, Pentagon Offer Contradictory Statements on Attacking Iranian Boats

Pentagon says Trump's tweet was just a warning

When President Trump announces on Twitter that he has ordered a government body to do something, it’s often not clear for days if he ever told them about it. This is latest exemplified in Wednesday’s Tweet to “shoot down” Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf.

After Trump’s statement, the White House refusal to comment, and multiple statements from Defense officials, it’s not clear at all if the US is actually planning to attack Iranian boats, with officials at the Pentagon suggesting it was “an important warning” as opposed to a literal order to attack.

Pentagon officials were notable in their refusal to say how Trump’s comments would impact a hypothetical situation in the future. They seem to be interpreting this as a threat/warning for its own sake, and not ordered military policy.

This happens fairly often with President Trump’s Tweets, which are presented as the word of the president but often never go beyond the Twitterverse into actionable policy, and which other officials feign befuddlement about when asked on the matter.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.