WORLD Iran urges Trump to avoid Israel 'trap' to provoke war

WORLD

Iran urges Trump to avoid Israel 'trap' to provoke war

CGTN

17:18, January 03, 2021

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday not to be "trapped" by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, August 14, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

He issued the warning on the first anniversary of the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by a drone strike in Baghdad, capital of Iraq, on January 3, 2020. There was no immediate comment by Israel.

Washington blamed Iran-backed militia for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq, including those near the U.S. embassy, while no known Iran-backed groups have claimed responsibility.

"New intelligence from Iraq indicate(s) that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans - putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli (act justifying war)," Zarif said in a tweet, adding to "be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Zarif's remarks. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zarif's message.

Esmail Ghaani, who succeeded Soleimani as head of the elite Quds force, said on Friday Iran was still ready to respond. "From inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime," he said at a televised event at Tehran University to mark the anniversary.

"American mischief will not deter the Quds force from carrying on its resistance path," he added.

Tensions have been building up in the run-up to the first anniversary of Soleimani's killing, with two American B-52 bombers recently flying over the region in a message of deterrence to Iran on Wednesday.

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz has been patrolling Gulf waters since late November, but American media said this week that U.S. defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, had ordered the Nimitz to return home.

The New York Times, quoting U.S. officials, said this move was part of a "de-escalatory" signal to Tehran to avoid a conflict in Trump's last days in office.

Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in 2018 and launched a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran, reimposing and reinforcing crippling sanctions.

The two countries have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani.

Days after the Soleimani assassination, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. and other coalition troops, with Trump refraining from any further military response.

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