A volley of rockets exploded near the US embassy in Baghdad. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday dismissed US President Donald Trump’s allegations that Iran was behind the recent rocket attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Earlier Trump warned on Wednesday he would hold “Iran responsible” in the event of a fatal attack on Americans in Iraq, as the first anniversary of the killing of a top Iranian general in a US air strike approaches.
“Our embassy in Baghdad got hit on Sunday by several rockets,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to an attack that caused damage but no deaths.
“Guess where they came from: IRAN,” he added.
“Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq,” he added, before offering “some friendly health advice to Iran: if one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over,” he said.
Responding to Trump, the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javid Zarif tweeted on Thursday: “Putting your own citizens at risk abroad won't divert attention from catastrophic failures at home.”
He also attached an image of years-old Trump tweets that claimed ex-president Barack Obama would have started a war with Iran to win re-election, as well as a screengrab of a graph that purported to show the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already pointed the finger at Tehran, while the US military command that covers the region said that the rocket attack “was almost certainly conducted by an Iranian-backed rogue militia group.”
It said in a statement that while it “caused no US injuries or casualties, the attack did damage buildings in the US embassy compound, and was clearly NOT intended to avoid casualties.”
“The United States will hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans that result from the work of these Iranian-backed rogue militia groups,” it added.
Iran had earlier responded by calling on US authorities on Monday not to provoke “tensions.”
Trump ordered the drone attack on Jan.3, 2020 to kill the powerful Iranian general while he was in Baghdad. The air strike came after Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at US targets in Iraq, in a scenario echoed by the latest strikes against the US embassy.
After Soleimani's killing, the entire region held its breath in anticipation of an uncontrolled escalation which ultimately did not materialize.
But tensions are rising again as the first anniversary of the strike nears and the US leader — in his final weeks in office — is sticking to his “maximum pressure” approach toward the Iranian regime.
Washington has recently reduced its diplomatic staff in the Iraqi capital amid speculations that it could close the mission altogether.
US officials said on Monday that Trump had exercised "strategic patience" during the past year in the face of Iran's stepped-up military activities in the region challenging the US and its allies.
Trump’s comments Sunday came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force. Iran has vowed to retaliate and Iraq’s parliament responded by voting Sunday to oust US troops based in the country.
The split between the president and his Pentagon chief came amid heightened tensions with Tehran following a US drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Trump had twice warned that he would hit Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates against the US.
The sanctions, announced at the White House, marked the latest salvo in a US-Iranian confrontation that risked sliding into war a week ago with the deadly US drone attack on general Qasem Soleimani, who was by some measures the second most influential person in Iran.
An Israeli delegation that had travelled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country's war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
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