More than simply disrupting crude shipments, there are fears that escalated Iranian aggression through regional proxies could drag the U.S. into greater military conflict.
"The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure for the presence of American (military) ... The Quds force and I are your match. We don't go to sleep at night before thinking about you," Major General Qassem Soleimani said in a speech from Hamedan, Iran, according to local media, addressing the American president directly.
"If you begin the war, we will end the war."
The salvo Thursday came in response to Trump's impassioned tweet Sunday warning that Iran would face "consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before," which was in turn prompted by a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatening that war with Iran would be "the mother of all wars."
Soleimani commands the Quds Force, the elite external branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), tasked with exporting the ideals of the Islamic Revolution and asserting Iranian influence regionally. The broadside was a rare public appearance for a man who operates largely in secrecy and is considered the most powerful figure in Iran's establishment.