Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country is willing to risk “all out war” with the United States if the Trump Administration follows through with military action against his country.
The comments, made during an interview with CNN, are directed at the Trump Administration’s response to an attack on a Saudi oil facility. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabian officials both blame the Iranian government for the attack. Zarif and others in the Iranian government directed the blame at Houthis rebels in Yemen.
There is a broad consensus among U.S. and European intelligence officials that Iran is indeed responsible. Saudi Arabia, which has long been locked in a geo-political fight with Tehran for dominance in Middle Eastern politics, has also been adamant about Iran’s involvement in the oil attack.
President Trump said there was little double about Iran’s involvement in a Twitter post.
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
Zarif, however, is doubling down on his government’s position, casting his country as a victim under the yoke of hawkish American foreign policy. Should the United States begin retaliatory bombing campaigns along with Saudi Arabia, he says Iran would be forced to fight to the “last American soldier.”
“I make a very serious statement about defending our country,” Zarif told CNN. “I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation.”
Tensions between Iran and the United States have been steadily escalating since the Iran Revolutionary Guard shot down an unmanned American surveillance drone over neutral airspace along the Persian Gulf, on which Iran shares a coast. At the time, Iranian officials contended that the drone was protruding into their own airspace. President Trump referenced this when responding Iran’s denial in taking part in the attack on Saudi oil assets.
Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their “airspace” when, in fact, it was nowhere close. They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2019
The Trump Administration is, at the time of writing, weighing retaliatory options against the Iranian government, which will likely include more economic sanctions. CNN reports the White House has already imposed over 1,000 such sanctions since cancelling America’s involvement in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Trump and the Republican Party have been critical of the Obama-era pledge, saying it gave Tehran far too much leeway for developing nuclear capabilities. The plan was also criticized for being too lenient on the Iranian government.
President Donald Trump responded to the developments to the media while introducing new national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who the New York Times has described as “hawkish.” O’Brien will replace ousted national security adviser John Bolton, who broke with the Trump team by pushing for a more interventionist foreign policy. The decision to fire Bolton has garnered mixed reactions from conservative circles.