If Iranian boats harassed a U.S. destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 28 like they did on Jan. 8, one expert says it’s unlikely the president-elect would take it lying down.

On Sunday, the destroyer USS Mahan was forced to fire warning shots at Iranian fast boats speeding toward it with their weapons manned after audio warnings failed to stop them. The Pentagon deemed the move “unsafe and unprofessional,” and the boats broke off after the shots were fired.

Once President-elect Trump takes office this month, he’ll be presented with a list of options on how to respond to situations like this. Bryan McGrath, the managing director of the FerryBridge Group, said what choices Trump makes will almost certainly be different from those made by President Obama.

“I don’t think any administration after the Obama administration, and especially the Trump administration, are going to sit back and allow the Iranians to continue to do this. This is dangerous,” said McGrath, a retired naval officer who commanded the destroyer USS Bulkeley, which is the class of ship that fired on the Iranians. “I don’t think that a President Trump is going to have much of an appetite for this kind of crap and quite frankly I don’t blame him.”

McGrath predicted Trump would allow more “diverse reactions” to these types of provocations, including possibly loosening the rules of engagement to allow warning shots to be fired earlier in an incident or requiring fighter aircraft from a carrier in the region to escort ships, enabling them to strafe or scare attacking boats if needed.

Another option would be issuing a “more hostile warning” verbally to offer greater deterrence, McGrath said.

“I think we need to show them varying behaviors so they don’t get too comfortable,” he said.

Cully Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stressed that the legal options available to sailors at sea under the next administration will not change. Sailors will still need to go through the chain of responses from verbal warnings to stop, to verbal warnings of consequences if a threat does not stop, to threatening warning shots, to actually firing warning shots, to, if there is imminent danger, taking actions in self-defense up to lethal action.

Stimson, who is also a captain in the Navy Reserve and a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps, also stressed that sailors in evolving situations such as this are in constant communication with superiors and lawyers whose advice will not change after Inauguration Day.

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“It’s entirely predictable that the Navy as informed by the staff judge advocate, the lawyer advising the command and the fleet commander who owned that ship, will give them the same advice a couple days ago that they would give a month from now,” he said.

Retired Vice Adm. John “Fozzie” Miller, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who previously served as commander of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, also noted that the procedures the crew followed have been in place for a long time and are seen as international norms, with similar escalation checklists used by other countries’ navies.

But while Trump may have the same options legally available to him, Stimson said what might change is the degree to which a new president or defense secretary would authorize or direct different types of actions.

Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said that a change in rhetoric may also be enough to deter harassment from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Vatanka also said Trump should lean heavily on retired Gen. James Mattis, who was tapped to be the next defense secretary and formerly served as the head of U.S. Central Command, in making some of these decisions about how to change the U.S. response to incidents such as this.

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“All President-elect Trump has to do once he’s in the White House is to listen to counsel he will get from Mattis because he knows the region intimately well,” he said. “That’s as far as he needs to look to get some solid counsel about what the U.S. needs to do to get back to a position where Iran does not think it can get away with provoking the U.S.”

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