Iran warned the United States against making a “strategic mistake” after President Donald Trump threatened Tehran over reports it planned to avenge the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.
“We hope that they do not make a new strategic mistake and certainly in the case of any strategic mistake, they will witness Iran’s decisive response,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a televised news conference on Tuesday.
Trump on Monday promised any attack by Iran would be met with a response “1,000 times greater in magnitude,” after reports said Tehran planned to avenge Soleimani’s killing in a US drone attack in January near Baghdad’s airport.
A US media report, quoting unnamed officials, said an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa was planned before the presidential election in November.
“According to press reports, Iran may be planning an assassination, or other attack, against the United States in retaliation for the killing of terrorist leader Soleimani,” Trump tweeted.
“Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!”
Relations between Washington and Tehran have worsened since Trump unilaterally pulled out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Washington is pushing to extend an arms embargo on Iran that starts to progressively expire in October as well as reimposing UN sanctions on Tehran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Tuesday that Washington would prevent Iran from purchasing “Chinese tanks and Russian air defence systems” as the end of the UN arms embargo against Tehran approaches.
While the European Union and United Nations disagreed with the US decision to withdraw from an international nuclear deal in 2018 and reimpose unilateral sanctions on Iran, Washington was acting to “keep the world safe,” he told France Inter radio.
“We are going to act in a way – and we have acted in a way – that will prevent Iran from being able to purchase Chinese tanks and Russian air defence systems and resell weapons to Hezbollah,” Pompeo said.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed movement, has long been targeted by US sanctions and is blacklisted as a “terrorist” organisation. But it is also a powerful political player with seats in parliament in Lebanon, where the French president is seeking to foster political reform.
The United States faces widespread opposition in a new bid to reimpose international sanctions on Iran, which has been progressively stepping up its nuclear activities since Washington pulled out of the deal in 2018.
It also wants to extend the UN arms embargo on the country expiring on October 18.
“While the EU has made a different decision about that [nuclear] agreement, they share our concern about the extension of that arms embargo,” Pompeo said.
The United States, he insisted, would “continue to defend the international order to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from returning to its malign activity” in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian navy last week said it drove off a US aircraft that flew close to an area where military exercises were under way near the Strait of Hormuz.
The military said three US aircraft were detected by Iran’s air force radars after they entered the country’s air defence identification zone.