Iranian commander joins war of words against Trump, says ‘ready for war’
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A controversial Iranian military figure has been the latest to get involved in a war of words between Tehran and Washington, claiming on Thursday that Iran’s militias are “ready” to engage with the US.
Qassim Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, said US President Donald Trump should direct threats to him after the American leader warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of severe consequences this week.
“As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats ... If you want to use the language of threat ... talk to me, not to the president (Hassan Rouhani). It is not in our president’s dignity to respond to you,” Soleimani was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, Trump said in a tweet directed at Rouhani: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!”
Major-General Soleimani’s Quds Force and the IRGC’s proxies are considered terrorist organizations by the Trump administration. Operating in Syria and Iraq, Shia militias have led to increased tensions with the US, with some going as far as directly threatening US troops on the ground.
“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine ... Come. We are ready ... If you begin the war, we will end the war,” Tasnim news agency quoted Soleimani as saying. “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”
Soleimani’s threats in response to Trump’s tweets echo those of Iranian Guards commanders who have said they would destroy US military bases across the Middle East and target Israel if the latter were to attack “Iranian targets” within Syria. This includes the Hezbollah brigade and other Tehran-backed militias supporting Syrian regime leader, President Bashar al-Assad.
“You (Trump) threaten us with paying a price like few countries have ever paid. Trump, this is the language of nightclubs and gambling halls,” said Soleimani, who as Quds Force commander is in charge of the Revolutionary Guards’ external operations, i.e. terrorism.
Both Soleimani and Rouhani have been targeted by the Trump administration, which has stated it would no longer tolerate Tehran’s maligned influence in the region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first US official to acknowledge the role of Soleimani in an attack on the US-allied Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk last October, led by Iranian-backed militias. Earlier this month, however, Pompeo took a stronger stance, telling The National, “Soleimani is causing trouble throughout Iraq and Syria, and we need to raise the cost for him,” for “his organization and for him personally.”
US national security adviser John Bolton on Monday added that President Trump told him, in wording similar to the Twitter post to which Soleimani responded, “if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”
Under sanctions and growing pressure by the US, Rouhani said before a group of Iranian diplomats earlier on Sunday, “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” adding, “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
The US, however, continues to push countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November and call for the regime to change its behavior.
Editing by John J. Catherine