The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps on Wednesday warned Tehran was on the brink of full-on conflict with its enemy, a day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there would not be a war with the United States amid escalating tensions.
“We are on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy,” Major General Hossein Salami said, according to the Reuters news agency, which cited Iran’s Fars news agency.
“This moment in history — because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity — is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution,” added Salami, who tapped as the new IRGC chief last month.
President Hassan Rouhani later condemned the US sanctions on his country.
“The hard times and problems of America’s economic war against Iran have begun… what America is doing is a crime against humanity,” he said.
Rouhani accused the US of disrupting the flow of “livelihood, food and medical drugs” to normal Iranians. “This war is not against the government of the Islamic republic of Iran, it’s against the Iranian nation,” he said.
The comments come amid rising tensions in the region that saw the deployment earlier this month of an American aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf and attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.
On Sunday, four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged off the United Arab Emirates coast in an attack US officials reportedly suspect was carried out at Iran’s behest.
Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an “alarming” incident, while a senior member of Iran’s parliament blamed Israel on Tuesday for the attacks on the ships, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility.
The attacks “appeared to be Israeli mischief,” Behrouz Nemati, an Iranian government spokesman said after a closed-door session of parliament, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
On Tuesday, Khamenei said “there is not going to be any war” with the US, but that there will also be no renegotiation of the nuclear deal.
“This face-off is not military because there is not going to be any war. Neither we nor them [the US] seek war. They know it will not be in their interest,” he said, as quoted on the official Khamenei.ir website.
Iranian nation’s definite option is resistance against U.S. and in this confrontation, U.S. will have to withdraw. This is not a military confrontation because no war is to happen. We don’t seek a war nor do they. They know a war wouldn’t be beneficial for them. pic.twitter.com/LVwlidej0X
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 14, 2019
In tweets following the comments, Khamenei wrote that the “Iranian nation’s definite option is resistance against US and in this confrontation, US will have to withdraw…. This confrontation is a confrontation of willpowers and our willpower is stronger because in addition to our willpower we also enjoy relying on God.”
Hours earlier on Tuesday a close adviser to Rouhani warned US President Donald Trump that it “looks like you are going to get a war” with Iran, as the US deployed additional warships to the region.
In an English-language tweet tagging Trump, Hesameddin Ashena said, “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead.”
In an apparent reference to mustachioed US National Security Adviser John Bolton, he added, “That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache.”
“Good luck in 2020!” he concluded sarcastically.
Tensions have risen since Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored US sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. On Wednesday morning, Iran said it had formally dropped the limitations on uranium enrichment and the production of heavy water that were laid down in the landmark deal.
European powers have vowed to fight to save the nuclear deal and the European Union has urged Iran to respect the international agreement, saying it aims to continue trading with the country despite US sanctions.