A top Iranian president aide called U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton “the mustache” this week, declaring he is pushing American President Donald Trump into “war” with Iran.
The comments by Hesamoddin Ashena, a principal advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, came via Twitter on Tuesday.
He made those remarks soon after U.S. military experts accused Shiite “Iran or its proxies” of damaging four commercial ships off the coast of the Sunni United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sunday, Fox News notes.
On Tuesday, Ashena wrote on Twitter, “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!”
@realDonaldTrump : You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!
— Hesameddin Ashena (@hesamodin1) May 14, 2019
Echoing Rouhani’s aide, Hamid Baeidinejad, the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, warned the Trump administration in an interview with Sky News on Tuesday against taking taunting Iran.
“Don’t test us,” he cautioned.
He claimed the Iranian military is “fully ready” for any conflict in the Middle East, noting:
While we have renounced any escalation in the region, I would assure you that Iranian armed forces are fully ready for any eventuality in the region, so they should not try to test the determination of Iran to confront any escalation in the region.
Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, attempted to downplay the Iranian threats.
“This is not a military confrontation, because no war is going to happen,” he declared on Iranian state television, according to the state-run Press TV.
“Neither we nor they are seeking war, they know that it is not to their benefit,” Khamenei who has the final word on all Iranian government matters added.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also downplayed any prospect of conflict between America and Iran.
“We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran, we’re looking for the regime to simply stop conducting assassination campaigns throughout Europe,” he declared on Tuesday while visiting Russia.
President Trump had cautioned Iran the previous day, saying the Islamic Republic will “suffer greatly” if it does “anything” in the form of an attack.
U.S. military and civilian officials have indicated that Iranian forces or proxies loyal to Tehran are preparing for possible attacks against American interests in the Middle East, Fox News reported.
“The administration cited the threats as the reason for expediting the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and other military resources to the region,” it added.
This month, Bolton, a long-time ardent critic of the Iranian regime, announced that the Trump administration is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in order “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.
Amid increasing diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran at the hands of the Trump administration, the threat against U.S. troops in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, has intensified in recent days.
Iraq is home to tens of thousands of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an Iranian-allied umbrella organization of mainly Shiite fighters legalized by Baghdad as a component of the Iraqi security forces.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) on Wednesday confirmed it has ordered the withdrawal of non-essential embassy personnel from Baghdad.
On Tuesday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) — responsible for overseeing American military activity in the Middle East — raised the threat level against United States military personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Military Times reported.
CENTCOM’s move contradicted assertions by British Maj. Gen Chris Ghika that Iranian-backed fighters do not represent an increased menace to members of the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) under Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).
Gen. Ghika is an OIR deputy commander.
Refuting the British general’s assessment, Capt. Bill Urban, the lead spokesman for CENTCOM, reportedly declared:
Recent comments from OIR’s deputy commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.
U.S. Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq.
Echoing U.S. lawmakers and DOS, the Pentagon’s office of the inspector general (OIG) warned earlier this year that the PMF poses a threat to American troops in Iraq and Syria.
DOS recently designated some PMF components as terrorist organizations.
In September 2018, the Trump administration accused Iranian-backed militia fighters of carrying out “life-threatening attacks” against a U.S. consulate in Iraq and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, warning that the United States would hold Tehran accountable for any more assaults. At the time, there appeared to be a division within the Pentagon regarding the threat posed by the PMF.
Citing warnings from U.S. lawmakers, Trump officials, and the Pentagon’s OIG, Breitbart News asked the Pentagon if it was planning to address the PMF menace.
A Pentagon spokesman responded that combating the PMF is not part of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) OIG reported this month:
USCENTCOM reported to the DoD OIG that some PMF units have interfered with Coalition patrol freedom of movement, although it noted that these have not significantly degraded security operations.
Iranian-backed groups continue to monitor Coalition operations, personnel, and facilities, publish false or misleading stories about Coalition activity in the media, and, through allies within the Iraqi Council of Representatives, support legislation to compel the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. [The U.S.-led coalition] reported that Iran and Iran-backed groups prefer to try to diminish U.S. and Coalition presence in Iraq through soft power means rather than through direct military confrontation
Some U.S. military leaders have praised the PMF’s contribution to the demise of the so-called ISIS caliphate.