Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif offered a swift response on Thursday to Donald Trump’s tweeted warning to Tehran over its purported role in the recent rocket attack on the US embassy in Iraq.
Zarif posted a message addressed to the sitting American president, urging him to take stock of “catastrophic failures at home”, instead of issuing threats to foreign countries and placing his own citizens abroad “at risk”.
The post was accompanied by an image of a recently-published chart that summarises the 20 days in the past 100 years with the most American deaths from a natural disaster, war, or pandemic.
According to it, the Pearl Harbor attack had made the top 20 until 16 December, when the US registered 3,448 coronavirus-related deaths — the most of any day of the pandemic so far.
The death toll tops the 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 attacks, as well as the number of victims of the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, one of the country’s deadliest natural disasters.
In the Twitter post, Zarif also called out Donald Trump for hypocrisy, reposting images of the latter’s throw-back tweets dating to 2011, 2012 where he claimed that Barack Obama would target the Middle Eastern country to boost his popularity at home and “save face’.
I predict that President Obama will at some point attack Iran in order to save face!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2013
Don't let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected--be careful Republicans!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
Trump Vows to ‘Hold Iran Responsible’
The retaliatory tweet by the Iranian Foreign Minister came after US President Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that Tehran was responsible for the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad on 20 December.
Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch. Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq... pic.twitter.com/0OCL6IFp5M— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
As he purported that there was a “chatter of additional attacks” targeting Americans in Iraq, he tweeted a threat to “hold Iran responsible” if any of his fellow citizens died in the potential assaults.
...Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
The message, which urged Iran to “think it over” before taking any actions against the US, came with am accompanying photo of three small rockets that the sitting president claimed had failed to launch.
The claim echoes a similar one levelled against Iran in June 2019, when a US drone was shot down over Yemen. An image had also been presented as evidence that the Houthis were being armed by Iran.
Subsequently, the claim was used by Washington to ramp up attacks against Tehran. After designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, the US assassinating one of its leaders, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who commanded the IRGC’s elite Quds Force.
Tehran responded at the time by bombing a pair of US bases in Iraq, injuring over 100 soldiers, and has since issued threats of more attacks.
Washington Mulling ‘Range of Options’
A volley of rockets hit the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Sunday amid heightened concerns at the White House over possible retaliatory actions by Iranian-backed forces in Iraq ahead of the anniversary of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani on 3 January.
An Iraqi military statement in the wake of the attack said an “an outlawed group” had launched eight rockets targeting the Green Zone, leaving one Iraqi security officer injured and damaging cars and a residential complex.
A “range of options” to be undertaken by the US President were mulled at a meeting on 23 December by Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, reported Reuters.
According to a quoted official, they were “designed to be non-escalatory and to deter further attack.” He added that under consideration was a “set of options that we could present to the President to make sure that we deter the Iranians and Shia militias in Iraq from conducting attacks on our personnel.”
Washington immediately placed the blame for the attack on the Iranian-backed militia.
“The United States will hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans that result from the work of these Iranian-backed rogue militia groups,” said US Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban.
On Tuesday Axios had reported, citing sources, that the Trump administration was considering closing the US embassy in Baghdad ahead of a response to the attack.
On 21 December the American Navy confirmed that the USS Georgia nuclear attack submarine, equipped with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, had passed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Persian Gulf.
JUST IN: #USNavy's #USSGeorgia transits #StraitofHormuz with cruisers #USSPortRoyal and #USSPhilippineSea. Georgia’s presence in @US5thFleet demonstrates the fleet's ability to operate wherever international law allows. #forcetobereckonedwith— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) December 21, 2020
DETAILS ➡️ https://t.co/PObIHE2XC6 pic.twitter.com/ys8cBbnm7k
Israeli media then reported that an Israeli Navy submarine had visibly crossed the Suez Canal in what was dubbed a ‘show of force’ aimed at Iran.
‘Blatantly Creating Tension’
Iran has vehemently rejected the allegations of complicity in the attack on the American embassy compound on 20 December.
We strongly refute @SecPompeo's irresponsible anti-#Iran accusations, which blatantly aim to create tension.— Saeed Khatibzadeh (@SKhatibzadeh) December 21, 2020
Iran rejects any attack on diplomatic missions.
The U.S. military presence is the source of instability in our region. No amount of spin can divert blame for its evils.
As he tweeted on 21 December to denounce the latest rocket attack, Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh refuted US accusations “which blatantly aim to create tension”.