Just days after saying he was prepared for talks, United States President Donald Trump has issued a direct threat to Iran, suggesting that the Islamic republic will be destroyed if it attacks his country’s interests. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The confrontational post follows last week’s attacks on Saudi oil assets and the firing of a rocket on Sunday into the heavily fortified “Green Zone” in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, an area housing many government buildings and embassies.
The U.S. on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, and Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programs in the country in the latest sign of tensions sweeping the Persian Gulf region over still-unspecified threats that the Trump administration says are linked to Iran. A high-ranking British general said there was no new threat from Iran or its regional proxies, something immediately rebutted by the U.S. military’s Central Command, which said its troops were on high alert, without elaborating.
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Sunday the U.S. military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represents a target, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported. The U.S. military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that U.S. officials said was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
The European Union has rejected Iran’s 60-day “ultimatum”, referring to Tehran’s decision to quit parts of the 2015 nuclear agreement a year after the US withdrew from the landmark accord signed with major world powers, including the EU. In a joint statement with the foreign ministries of France, the United Kingdom and Germany, the EU urged Iran to respect the nuclear deal, and said they regretted fresh US sanctions imposed on Tehran.
Iran will partially withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal signed with six other nations in 2015, amid heightened pressure from the United States in recent weeks. President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Wednesday that Iran would reduce its “commitments” to the deal, but would not fully withdraw. He accused “hardliners” in the US of working to undermine the deal, saying it was “in the interests of the region and the world, but not the enemies of Iran, therefore they spared no effort since 2015 to undermine (the deal).”
The US has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to send a “clear and unmistakable message” to Iran. John Bolton, US national security advisor, said they were acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”. eThe deployment of the warship was based on claims of a possible attack on US forces, Reuters news agency reports, quoting an unnamed US official. Mr Bolton added that they would counter any attack with “unrelenting force”.
The Trump administration is designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, taking an unprecedented step as it seems to increase pressure on Iran’s regime. The move seems certain to bring a new level of tension between the two countries, as Iran’s leaders have said they will retaliate in kind. President Trump announced the designation Monday morning, in a shift from the decades in which the U.S. has viewed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. With the U.S. designation, anyone who deals with the Revolutionary Guard could run the risk of facing criminal charges, such as aiding or supporting a terrorist group.
Iran’s Foreign Minister has said he is stepping down, in a surprise announcement made on his Instagram account. The veteran diplomat played a prominent role in striking the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. But he has come under attack by anti-Western hardliners in Iran after President Donald Trump announced the US would be leaving the agreement last May. Since then Mr Trump’s administration has reimposed harsh economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal.
The US has charged a former Air Force intelligence specialist with spying for Iran, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court Wednesday. Monica Witt, who was also a former counterintelligence officer for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, defected to Iran in 2013, according to the indictment, and remains at large. Iranian government officials provided Witt with “goods and services, including housing and computer equipment,” in order to facilitate her work on behalf of the government of Iran after her defection, the indictment said.
A suicide attack in south-eastern Iran has killed at least 27 members of the Revolutionary Guards and wounded 13 others, state media say. The bomber targeted a bus transporting personnel in Sistan-Baluchestan province near the border with Pakistan. The Sunni Muslim militant group, Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), has said it was behind the bombing. The Revolutionary Guards, which is a major military, political and economic force in Iran, blamed foreign powers.