BAGHDAD (AP) – Iran has instructed its allies in the Middle East to be on high alert and avoid provoking tensions with the United States, which could prompt the outgoing Trump administration to launch attacks in recent weeks as president. the Iraqi authorities
The request – made by a senior Iranian general to allies in Baghdad this week – reflects growing regional concern over President Donald Trump’s unpredictable behavior and uncertainty in the chaotic transition until President-elect Joe Biden takes office two months later.
Trump also unilaterally withdrew America in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, designed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, and again imposed criminal sanctions on Iran, crippling its economy.
Since then, Iran has abandoned all restrictions on its uranium enrichment program, although other international partners have tried unsuccessfully to save it. Biden’s incoming administration has announced plans to rejoin or renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal.
But there are growing concerns about what Trump, who refuses to recognize the election, may do in the final days of his presidency – including a potential strike on America’s enemies abroad. An adviser to Iran’s top leader warned in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday that any American attack on Iran could provoke a “full-fledged war” in the region.
“We do not welcome war. We are not after a war, “said Hossein Dehan, who served in Iran’s paramilitary revolutionary guard before becoming defense minister under President Hassan Rouhani.
The fear does not seem to be rooted in anything in particular – Trump has in fact ordered the reduction of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be completed by mid-January – rather as a general nervousness over the unpredictability of Trump’s actions. The dismissal of Defense Minister Mark Esper two days after the election sparked a flurry of speculation as to whether it was linked to a broader plan for a strike abroad.
Iraq, where rivalry between the United States and Iran is played out, is seen as a potential arena. Frequent attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad in recent months have led the frustrated Trump administration to threaten to close the mission, a move that sparked a diplomatic crisis and diplomatic messages from the back channels that led to an informal truce a few weeks before the US election.
Two months before the Biden administration takes office, Iranian General Esmail Gaani, head of the Quds Expeditionary Force, handed over Tehran’s request during a meeting with Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and Shiite politicians in Baghdad this week, according to two senior Iraqi officials. Shiite politicians who attended the meetings in Baghdad.
The message: Step back to avoid allowing Trump to start a new round of violence.
And to Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries: Calm down and stop the attacks on the US presence in Iraq for now.
However, if there was US aggression by the Trump administration, Iran’s response would be “in line with the type of strike,” Ghani was quoted as saying by an Iraqi politician.
An Iraqi government official also confirmed Gaani’s meetings with Iranian-backed factions in Iraq this week. All Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group Hassan Nasrallah has warned followers and allies to be vigilant during Trump’s remaining weeks in power.
“We all … need to be on high alert for the next two months so that it goes smoothly,” Nasrallah said in television remarks earlier this month, even as he called on his followers “to be prepared to face any danger.” , aggression or harm “and to respond in kind,” if the nonsense of the United States or Israel goes that far. “
But just hours after Gaani delivered Iran’s message to Baghdad – and while he was still in Iraq – a barrage of Katyusha missiles landed a few hundred meters from the US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone of the Iraqi capital. Several of the rockets that landed right in front of the Green Zone killed a child and wounded five civilians.
The attack – contrary to instructions to avoid escalation – could indicate a potential disagreement in the police ranks or a deliberate plan by the factions to offer mixed messages and keep their intentions unclear.
A little-known militia group, Ashab al-Kahf, believed to have links to the mighty Kataib Hezbollah, has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. For his part, Kataib Hezbollah denied having carried out the barrage and said the truce, initiated in October, was still in force.
This claim was refuted by Qais al-Hazali, leader of the powerful Iran-linked militia group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, who said in a televised interview Thursday that the truce was over.