Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned U.S. President Donald Trump not to be “trapped” by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. In a Twitter post last Saturday, Zarif wrote: “New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans — putting an outgoing (President Donald) Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.”
The warning was issued by Zarif on the first anniversary of the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by a drone strike in Iraq. Esmail Ghaani, who succeeded Soleimani as head the elite Quds force, declared last Friday that the Islamic Republic is still prepared to retaliate for the assassination.
In what appeared to be a veiled threat against Israel, Zarif added, “Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs,” a slang term for ‘Best Friend Forever.’
Neither the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office or the Israeli Foreign Ministry immediately responded to Zarif’s outburst.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, however, dismissed the provocateur accusations outright. “We hear this nonsense by Zarif, that Israel would set off terrorist attacks against the United States – this really is total nonsense,” he said during an interview with the Kan public radio channel.
Steinitz went on to acknowledge, “But on the other hand it is a warning sign – a warning sign that Iran is taking aim at Israel, is looking for excuses to lash out at Israel – and therefore we need to have our finger on the pulse and be at the highest state of alert.”
The Israeli Minister also commented that the remarks reveal that Tehran is struggling “in terms of national security” under the “pressure” of mounting sanctions enacted by Washington aimed at curbing its nuclear program and involvement in regional conflict zones.
Israeli Culture Minister Chili Tropper, who like Steinitz sits in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, confirmed media reports that Israel is on heightened alert for the first anniversary since top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq. When asked during a separate interview with Kan what possible Iranian reprisals Israel is anticipating, Tropper replied: “I cannot comment.”
In related developments, Washington blames Tehran-backed militia for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, including near the U.S. Embassy. No known Iran-supported groups have claimed responsibility.
The U.S. military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East in a message of deterrence to Iran last Wednesday, although the aircraft have since left the region.