After President Donald Trump warned Iran not to threaten the United States again or it would face its “official end,” shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight, Iran’s foreign minister quickly responded in kind on Twitter with his own message: #NeverThreatenAnIranian.
Trump’s tweet follows days of heightened tension sparked by his administration’s sudden deployment of bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats. While his dueling approach of flattery and battery has become a hallmark of his presidency’s foreign policy, the risks have only grown in dealing with Iran, where four decades of mistrust between Tehran and Washington precede him.
In the time since, officials in the United Arab Emirates allege four oil tankers sustained damage in a sabotage attack. Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia. U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.
And while both Washington and Tehran say they don’t seek war, many worry any miscalculation at this fraught moment could spiral out of control.
The tweet from Trump early on Monday came just hours after a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, causing no injuries. Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad. The area is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted. “Never threaten the United States again!”
Trump did not elaborate, nor did the White House.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted his own message Monday on Twitter, saying Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts.” Zarif name-checked both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan as two historical leaders that Persia outlasted.
“Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone,” he wrote. He ended his tweet with: “Try respect – it works!”
In an interview aired Sunday on the Fox News Channel, Trump called the nuclear deal a “horror show.”
“I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons and they can’t be threatening us,” Trump said.
However, the nuclear deal had kept Iran from being able to acquire enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told journalists in Geneva that Iran should not doubt the U.S.’s resolve, warning that “if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate.”
“We want the situation to de-escalate because this is a part of the world where things can get triggered accidentally,” Hunt said.
Meanwhile, Oman’s minister of state for foreign affairs made a previously unannounced visit Monday to Tehran, seeing Zarif, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. The visit by Yusuf bin Alawi comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said last week. Oman long has served as a Western back-channel to Tehran and the sultanate hosted the secret talks between the U.S. and Oman that laid the groundwork for the nuclear deal negotiations.