Iran’s Khamenei shrugs off Trump threat to retaliate over Iraq embassy violence

Iran’s Khamenei shrugs off Trump threat to retaliate over Iraq embassy violence

Supreme leader says US president is not ‘logical,’ ‘can’t do anything’; vows his country will fight any threat to its interests

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, January 1, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, January 1, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said that US President Donald Trump was powerless to do anything to Iran, which will not hesitate to strike against any who threaten its interests.

Khamenei scoffed at remarks Trump made the previous day, in which the US leader said he was holding Tehran responsible for a violent assault on the US embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian demonstrators, who breached the outer wall of the Baghdad compound and burned property inside.

“That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran,” Khamenei wrote on his official Twitter account.

“1st: You can’t do anything,” he wrote. “2nd: If you were logical — which you’re not — you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan … have made nations hate you.

“If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally,” Khamenei continued. “We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, & glory. If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront & strike them.”

Pro-Iranian militiamen and their supporters set a fire while US soldiers fire tear gas during a sit-in in front of the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, January 1, 2020. (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

The rioting at the Baghdad embassy, which continued Wednesday, was sparked by weekend US airstrikes on an Iran-backed militia located in Iraq that Washington said was responsible for a rocket attack that killed a US civilian contractor. The US strikes killed 25 members of the Ketaeb Hezbollah group, a part of the state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces. There was wide public outrage in Iraq at the strikes, which were seen as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

“Look at what the US is doing in Iraq & Syria. They’re taking revenge on Hashd al-Sha’bi (the PMF) for defeating ISIS,” Khamenei wrote, referring to PMF involvement in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.

“Since #Hashd crippled & destroyed ISIS -which the US had created- they’re taking revenge,” Khamenei wrote. “The Iranian govt & nation & I strongly condemn the US’s malice.”

On Tuesday Trump threatened Iran with strong action over the embassy clashes.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” he said on Twitter.

“They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” wrote Trump, adding “Happy New Year!”

Later, he said he did not foresee war with Tehran over the embassy incident.

“I don’t see that happening,” Trump said at his holiday retreat in Florida when a reporter asked about the possibility of war with the Islamic Republic. “I like peace.”

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press outside the grand ballroom as he arrives for a New Year’s celebration at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 31, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP)

Earlier Tuesday Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that around 750 troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division were prepared to deploy over the next several days to the Middle East.

The US had already flown a rapid response team of Marines into Baghdad to reinforce its embassy after the attack, which left smoke and flames rising from the compound’s entrance and further heightened tension between Tehran and Washington.

US officials said there were no plans to evacuate the mission, and no US personnel were reported injured.

Meanwhile, Tehran summoned an official from the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, to complain about American “warmongering” in Iraq, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry… over stances of American officials with regards to developments in Iraq,” a ministry statement said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran conveyed its strong protest… over warmongering remarks made by American officials which are in violation of the United Nations Charter.”

In its statement, the Iranian foreign ministry said it had asked the Swiss charge d’affaires to inform the United States that “Iraq is an independent country.”

“The American army has martyred at least 25 young Iraqis and has wounded countless more without presenting the slightest evidence of them being at fault,” it said. “Naturally the people of Iraq react to the country that has occupied their country and kills their young people.”

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