Iran Shows Mixed Message After Backing Away From Conflict With U.S.

Iran Shows Mixed Message After Backing Away From Conflict With U.S. A day after President Trump backed away from further military conflict with Iran.

Iran Shows Mixed Message After Backing Away From Conflict With U.S.

Iran Shows Mixed Message After Backing Away From Conflict With U.S.

A day after President Trump backed away from further military conflict with Iran, a commander of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps declared that Iran would soon take “harsher revenge” on the United States for a drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general. But another Iranian military leader said his country’s missile attacks targeting Americans in Iraq this week had not been intended to kill anyone.

The remarks were just some of the mixed messages put forth by Iranian leaders on Thursday after Iranian missile strikes, which hit two military bases in Iraq housing American troops.

The slain commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, had led the Quds Force, a powerful branch of the corps, and his death reverberated across the country, prompting calls for revenge and the retaliatory strikes by Iran.

The barrage of missiles on Wednesday took no American lives, Mr. Trump said, and appeared to have inflicted little damage on air bases in Asad and Erbil that house thousands of Iraqi and American servicemen and women. And though Tehran said afterward that it had “concluded proportionate measures” to avenge the killing of General Suleimani, officials in the region cautioned that Iran might not be done maneuvering and had not abandoned its goal to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

On Thursday the commander of the Revolution Guards air force, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, described the strikes on the bases in Iraq as just the beginning of “a major operation” against the United States, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, but he also noted that the strikes had not aimed to kill anyone. He quickly followed up with the claim that “tens of people were killed and wounded,” a point disputed by American, Iraqi and other international accounts.

A senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, Abdollah Araghi, said on Thursday that Iran’s armed forces would “impose harsher revenge on the enemy in the near future,” according to Tasnim.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran spoke with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Thursday morning and warned of further action, according to the president’s office.

“If the U.S. makes another mistake, it will receive a very dangerous response,” Mr. Rouhani said, according to the statement.

The deputy general of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Fadavi, also pledged vengeance, according to a separate report from the English-language version of Tasnim.

“This move was one of the manifestations of our capabilities,” General Fadavi said in a speech in the central province of Isfahan on Thursday. “No country has ever made such a great move against the United States as we did. We dropped dozens of missiles into the heart of the U.S. base in Iraq and they couldn’t do a damn thing.”

The new leader of the Quds Force, Ismail Qaani, a longtime deputy of General Suleimani, released a statement on Thursday outlining his own commitment to moving forward with his predecessor’s agenda in the region, according to Tasnim. General Qaani added that the ultimate goal was to drive American forces out of the region.

As the rhetoric from Iranian forces heated up, other international leaders were keen to de-escalate the situation. And many of the statements on Thursday seemed to stand in stark contrast to those made by Iranian government officials a day earlier.

The influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Iran-backed militia groups not to carry out further attacks, even as he stressed that Iraqis should still seek to expel foreign troops, Reuters reported.

“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions, and to shut down the extremist voices of some rogue elements until all political, parliamentary and international methods have been exhausted,” he was quoted as saying.

Some analysts cautioned that more military action by Iran was still a strong possibility despite the government’s vow that the retaliation had ended.

Sanam Vakil, a scholar of Iran at Chatham House, a research center in London, said the possibility of strikes remained high, noting Iran’s escalatory activities in recent months to “gain limited leverage” in the long-running dispute with the United States over punishing sanctions.

“More kinetic action and reaction is inevitable,” Ms. Vakil wrote in a series of posts on Twitter outlining her perspective.

The lack of a direct back channel between Iran and the United States to ease tensions and the stalemate over the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump abruptly pulled out of last year, are also major complicating factors.

“Without a real off ramp, low-level escalation” like missile attacks from proxy groups, cyberattacks and threats to Gulf shipping “will undoubtedly continue in the coming months if not through the US election,” she added.

Pope Francis referred to the conflict on Thursday during an annual address to ambassadors to the Vatican. He said the tensions risked “compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.” Francis appealed to the parties to return to “dialogue and self-restraint.”

The United Nations Security Council said it would meet on Thursday, and the tensions between Iran and the United States were likely to dominate an agenda tackling international peace and security.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, the European Union’s decision-making body, said he had spoken to Iran’s president on Thursday, according to a statement, and “expressed hopes that there will be no further attempts to increase tensions in the region leading to a de-escalation of the situation.”

The statement also noted that the European Union was dedicated to preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran had negotiated with the governments of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

In his speech on Wednesday pulling back from the brink of war, Mr. Trump appeared to open a small window for diplomacy with Iran even as he urged other countries to turn their backs on the nuclear agreement and promised further, unspecified sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said Mr. Trump’s offer to cooperate with Iran was “unbelievable” and that negotiations between the two countries would be meaningless if the United States continued aggression against Iran. The American sanctions against Iran amounted to “economic terrorism,” he added in an interview with the Iranian state news outlet IRNA.

The United States justified the drone strike that killed General Suleimani in a letter on Wednesday to the Security Council, calling the action self-defense, according to Reuters. Under the United Nations Charter, countries are required to immediately report to the Security Council any measures taken in self-defense.

In the letter, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said the United States stood “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

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