January 02, 2021
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed on Saturday that in Iraq “Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans (to put) Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.”
His comments came after he accused on Thursday outgoing US President Donald Trump of aiming to fabricate a “pretext for war” after Trump blamed Tehran for a rocket strike on the US embassy in Baghdad on December 20.
“Be careful of a trap,” Zarif tweeted at Trump, saying that “any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief Hossein Salami also vowed Saturday to respond to any “action the enemy takes,” on the eve of the first anniversary of the US killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike on January 3, 2020.
Tensions have been building in the run-up to the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing, with two US B-52 bombers recently flying over the region.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz has also been patrolling Gulf waters since late November, but US media reported this week that acting US defence secretary Christopher C. Miller had ordered the vessel to return home.
The New York Times, quoting US officials, said the move was a “de-escalatory” signal to Tehran to avoid conflict in Trump’s last days in office.
Trump oversaw a sharp toughening of US policy, abandoning a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018 and reimposing crippling unilateral sanctions.
The two countries have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019.
Days after Soleimani’s assassination, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US and allied troops, with Trump refraining from any further military response.