Iran's Military Warns Of Imminent 'Full-Scale Confrontation' With American-Zionist Front'
“We are on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy,” claimed hardliner Hossein Salami, the recently appointed head of Iran’s IRGC on Wednesday. “This moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Defense Minister also clearly decided that there had not been any incendiary public statements for 24-hours, and so he announced that Iran will “defeat the American-Zionist front,” adding that ”today, the Islamic Republic of Iran stands at the peak of defense-military preparedness to counter any threat or act of aggression.”
The question now, as tension builds, is does Iran have a plan? Is the plan to push and prod at America to see what reaction it can get? Is it to provoke Israel, as a proxy, into acting first, drawing in the U.S. and causing regional rifts? Has Iran’s leadership gamed the likelihood that President Trump and his aides might be cajoled into a hurried regional campaign that might split the international community and provide some relief from the economic sanctions that are now hitting hard?
Wednesday’s saber-rattling echoed other recent public comments from Iranian military officials, including “if [the U.S.] make a move [against Iran], we will hit them in the head,” and the “billion-dollar [U.S.] fleet can be destroyed with one missile. If they attempt any move, they will [see] dozens of missiles because at that time officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead, things will be in the hands of our beloved leader.”
All of which appeared to be in stark contrast to what the supreme leader himself actually said on Tuesday. “The Iranian nation’s definite option will be resistance in the face of the U.S., and in this confrontation, the U.S. would be forced into a retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei told a gathering of officials. “Neither we nor they, who know that war is not in their interest, are after a war, [and] any confrontation between the U.S. and Iran will not be a military one.”
Despite the softer messaging, Khamenei did echo the anti-Israel theme, claiming that “the control of many affairs rests in the hands of the Zionist society,” and that Washington prioritizes Israel’s interests over all others.
On Monday, President Trump had told reporters at the White House “we’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it will be a very bad mistake. If they do anything they will suffer greatly.” Despite the punchy language, Trump also dismissed as “fake news” reports that his military aides had drawn up plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event a U.S. target was attacked.
The rest of the world is wary and confused at quite how quickly this has escalated. On Monday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt echoed the broad international mood. Speaking in Brussels at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting, he said “we are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended. What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.” Little chance of that, unfortunately.
The U.S. is adamant that the threat from Iran is real. After a senior U.K. general had told reporters that there has not been “an increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon quickly issued a statement saying that those comments were not accurate. And then on Wednesday, the U.S. pulled non-emergency employees out of Iraq – a State Department alert warned staff in the country to “depart as soon as possible” to avoid American facilities.
In a commentary published on Wednesday, Iran’s Fars news agency attacked U.S. actions as “the Cold War thinking and cultural hegemony that persists in the mindset of Trump officials and Christian-Zionists. This mindset is leading some sections of the American polity to draw a dividing line, a new type of Iron Curtain, across the world.”
The messaging from Iran is mixed, but it’s all heading in one direction and one can assume it has a purpose. As U.S. lawmakers increase the pressure on the president and his administration to clarify their intent, and as tensions build between the U.S. and allies keen to avoid another Middle East campaign, the regime in Teheran is achieving its objective.
Day by day the potential for escalation becomes starker. The sabotage attacks on four ships at the weekend will not be an isolated incident, and this in a region which is the epicenter of unintended consequences. The risk that the whole situation veers into a series of military skirmishes that escalate towards a wider conflict is becoming ever more real.