US President Donald Trump continued his Twitter offensive against Iran on Monday, vowing that the Islamic Republic will never obtain nuclear weapons.
The comment came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following Friday’s US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds force. Tehran has vowed to retaliate and Iraq’s parliament responded by voting Sunday to oust US troops based in the country.
Iran also said Sunday, as a response to the strike, that it would no longer abide by any limits prescribed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Trump has repeatedly threatened Iran on Twitter since the attack. On Saturday, he said the US had “targeted 52 Iranian sites” for attack in the event of Iranian reprisal. On Sunday, he warned Tehran that the US would respond quickly to any any Iranian strike and threatened that American retaliation could be disproportionate.
In his Monday tweet, he wrote: “IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!”
IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2020
Iran said Sunday it would no longer abide by any of the limits of the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, apparently all but ending an accord that blocked Tehran from having enough material to build an atomic weapon.
The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said Tehran would consider taking even harsher steps over Friday’s killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States.
Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities. “The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations,” a state TV broadcaster said.
Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program, and it did not back off from earlier promises that it would not seek a nuclear weapon. However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It further raises regional tensions, as Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”
The US killed Soleimani, other Revolutionary Guard members and a senior Iraqi militia leader in a stunning attack on their convoy, shortly after Soleimani had arrived at Baghdad’s international airport.
Shortly after the Friday airstrike, Trump tweeted an image of an American flag.
His Sunday warning on Twitter was framed as a notice to Congress of his intent to act.
“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” he wrote Sunday afternoon. “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
Speaking on Sunday, he doubled down on a threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites, dismissing concerns within his own administration that doing so would constitute a war crime under international law.
He also warned Iraq that the US would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops.
Iran and its allies have responded to Trump’s bellicosity with their own threats.
A top commander of Iran’s missile array said Monday that even killing Trump would not be satisfactory retribution for America’s slaying of Soleimani.
Rather, only the complete removal of US forces from the entire Middle East would suffice, said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, who is in charge of missiles that can hit US bases across the region.
Hajizadeh’s remarks echoed those made by Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah, who on Sunday, in a fiery televised speech, said that revenge for Soleimani demanded nothing short of driving the US out of the Middle East.
“In terms of retaliation, there is no figure in the opposite front to match General Soleimani and Muhandis,” Nasrallah said, adding that “Soleimani’s shoe is worth more than Trump’s head.”
On Sunday, three rockets landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, home to the US Embassy and the seat of Iraq’s government, city residents said at the time. There were some injuries to civilians, local media reported.
The attack came shortly after the deadline from a hardline pro-Iran faction for local troops to get away from US forces, following the US airstrike in Baghdad that killed Soleimani and militia leader Muhandis.
As the commander of the IRGC’s secretive foreign operations unit, the Quds Force, Soleimani had for years been seen as the architect of much of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East, including attempts to gain a foothold in Syria and rocket attacks on Israel.
Soleimani had long stayed in the shadows while directing the Quds Force. But he rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled dictator Bashar Assad.
After three days of funeral ceremonies that began Sunday, and have been attended by millions, Soleimani is to be buried Tuesday.
In a rare display of emotion from the typically reserved and measured supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cried openly Monday at a funeral procession. The general was the ayatollah’s most important military commander and the two shared a deep bond.