As the US, European powers, and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of being responsible for an attack on key Saudi oil facilities, Iran’s most senior military commander on Tuesday warned that any army invading his country will be defeated and taken captive.
Following the attack, which Iran denies responsibility for, Tehran has cautioned the US and its allies that retaliation would result in a major regional conflict.
Addressing an open session of parliament, armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri claimed potential enemies fear Iran’s military might and therefore have resorted to economic warfare instead, an apparent reference to strict US sanctions squeezing the country.
“We have repeatedly warned the enemies that if they invade this country, they will be treated like the American drone and the British oil tanker, and that the result of this invasion will be captivity and defeat,” Baqeri said, according to a report on his remarks from Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
He was referring to a US surveillance drone shot down by Iran in June, and a British tanker that Iran seized after an Iranian tanker was detained off the coast of Gibraltar at the request of the UK. Both tankers have since been released.
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) September 24, 2019
“Today, enemies, who are fearful of a war with Iran, have taken the path of economic terrorism,” he said. On Friday the Trump administration slapped more sanctions on the country, including on the Central Bank of Iran.
“We say to the neighboring countries that we have no enmity with you,” Baqeri said. “Countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are Muslim countries that have lost their path and should side with Iran so that the regional security will be preserved.”
Regional security comes from regional cooperation, Baqeri said, and offered to share Iran’s domestically developed military know-how with other Muslim countries.
Iran has denied responsibility for the September 14 drone and cruise missile attack on Saudi facilities that knocked out half of the kingdom’s oil production. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the strike, though analysts say the cruise missiles used didn’t have the range to have been fired from Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has said the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” The US has gone further, alleging Iran carried out the attack as part of a campaign seeking to roil the region as American sanctions on its oil industry prevent it from selling crude oil abroad, as Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers collapses.
After a meeting at the United Nations on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last week warned that any retaliatory strike on Iran by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war.”
A Saudi-led coalition has battled the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and sparked what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
On Friday night, the head of the Houthis’ supreme political council said it was halting all drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and awaiting a “positive response” from Saudi Arabia.