Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ chief warns Trump: ‘If you begin the war, we will end it’

In this June 30, 2018 photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, who heads the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard attends a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard's officers in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 27 July 2018

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ chief warns Trump: ‘If you begin the war, we will end it’

  • Mounting US economic pressure, a faltering economy, sliding currency and state corruption are rattling Iran’s clerical rulers
  • Neither side want a military confrontation

ANKARA: A powerful commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that Donald Trump should address any threats against Tehran directly to him, and mocked the US president as using the language of “night clubs and gambling halls.”
The comments by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Quds Force of the Guards, were the latest salvo in a war of words between the two countries.
“As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats ... If you wants to use the language of threat ... talk to me, not to the president (Hassan Rouhani). It is not in our president’s dignity to respond to you,” Soleimani was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Soleimani’s message was in essence a warning to the United States to stop threatening Iran with war or risk exposing itself to an Iranian response.
“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine ... Come. We are ready ... If you begin the war, we will end the war,” Tasnim news agency quoted Soleimani as saying. “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”
Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the fiery rhetoric of Soleimani was only “empty talk” because Iran was aware of “the strength and might of the US military.”
On Sunday night, Trump said in a tweet directed at Rouhani: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!“
A few hours earlier, Rouhani had addressed Trump in a speech, saying that hostile US policies could lead to “the mother of all wars.”
Fanning the heightened tensions, US national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on Monday: “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”
Bolton is a proponent of interventionist foreign policy and was US ambassador to the United Nations in the administration of George W. Bush during the Iraq war.
“You (Trump) threaten us with paying a price like few countries have ever paid. Trump, this is the language of night clubs and gambling halls,” said Soleimani, who as Quds Force commander is in charge of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations.
Iran’s Guards commanders have threatened to destroy US military bases across the Middle East and target Israel, which Iran refuses to recognize, within minutes of being attacked.

WAR OF WORDS
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Thursday that the Trump administration was “working with our partners and allies to try to get Iran to change its behavior and stop its actions across the region.”
Gidley, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One flying with Trump to Washington, D.C., from St. Louis, declined to comment on whether a strike was among options.
Since Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Tehran’s clerical establishment has been under increasing US pressure and the prospect of possible sanctions.
Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in the Middle East, where Iran is involved in proxy wars from Yemen to Syria.
Despite the bellicose rhetoric, there is limited appetite in Washington for a conflict with Iran, not least because of the difficulties the US military faced in Iraq after its 2003 invasion but also because of the impact on the global economy if conflict raised oil prices.
Mounting US economic pressure, a faltering economy, sliding currency and state corruption are rattling Iran’s clerical rulers, but analysts and insiders rule out any chance of a seismic shift in Iran’s political landscape.
“This is a war of words. Neither side want a military confrontation. But of course, if America attacks Iran, our response will be crushing,” a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Trump suggested on Tuesday that talks with Iran were an option, saying “we’re ready to make a real deal.” But Iran rejected it.
“But eventually, within a few months, half a year, they’ll have no choice and will return to negotiation table with the United States and give up their nuclear program,” Steinitz told Israeli Reshet TV on Thursday.
While the United States is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November, Iran has warned of counter-measures and has threatened to block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
“The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure today with the presence of American forces,” Soleimani said.
Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was temporarily halting all oil shipments through the Red Sea shipping lane of Bab Al-Mandeb after an attack on two oil tankers by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement.


US Military: Russia has deployed military aircraft to Libya

Updated 26 May 2020

US Military: Russia has deployed military aircraft to Libya

  • Libya has been gripped by violence since Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011

LONDON: The US military said Tuesday that Russia has recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya.

The jets are likely to be providing air support for the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor operating in Libya, the US Africa Command said.

The statement also said Moscow has employed the state-sponsored contractor in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow “plausible deniability” of its actions.

US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US’ Africa mission, said: “Just like I saw (Russia) doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner.”

The statement warned that Russian presence in Libya could “exacerbate the regional instability that has driven the migration crisis affecting Europe.”

Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and west vying for power.

In April, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord rejected a truce unilaterally proposed by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), saying it “did not trust” them.

The LNA is led by the commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli last year.

His forces have suffered a series of setbacks in recent months as Turkey stepped up support for for the Government of National Accord and the militias that support it.