Iran denies Trump claim that it is planning Iraq attacks
Tehran says it ‘starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do’
Iran has denied Donald Trump’s claim that its proxies are planning a “sneak attack” on US bases in Iraq.
The US president had claimed on Wednesday that “upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq”. Writing on Twitter, the president added: “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!”
Al Jazeera quotes a US official claiming that the potential attack was expected to be more menacing than previous rocket assaults, though The Guardian notes that it is not immediately clear what intelligence Trump had obtained to prompt his public statement.
Tehran has responded to Trump’s claim by saying it only ever acts in self-defence and has no proxies in Iraq, only allies.
The claim prompted the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to hit back, tweeting: “Don’t be mislead [sic] by usual warmongers... Iran has FRIENDS: No one can have MILLIONS of proxies. Unlike the US which surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates.”
In a warning to Washington, Zarif added: “Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do.”
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CBS News says it was among the most charged rhetorical exchanges since the US strike in January on Iranian general Qassim Soleimani.
The assassination of Soleimani, described as “one of biggest developments in the Middle East for decades” by experts, set up a tense stand-off between the two countries.
This culminated following a retaliatory strike in early January, in which Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at US and coalition military sites in Iraq.
The Iranian army chief of staff, Mohammad Bagheri, has stated that more recent attacks on US bases in Iraq were nothing to do with Tehran, but simply “a natural response by the Iraqi people”.
The latest war of words comes as Trump is under growing domestic pressure to relax sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Guardian reports that senior Democrats in Congress, the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, and outlets such as The New York Times and the Washington Post, have all joined the chorus calling for a humanitarian response to the pandemic.
The latest Iranian health ministry figures showed the total number infected by coronavirus had reached 50,469, with the number of deaths at 3,160.
Early in March, The New York Times reported that satellite images of mass graves in the city of Qom suggest Iran’s coronavirus epidemic is even more serious than the authorities are admitting.