Top Iranian Commander Issues Stark Warning to US: ‘Protect Lives of American Troops’

Sputnik

23.06.2019

The warning comes several days after US President Donald Trump approved and abruptly called off a strike on Iran minutes prior to the launch as long-running tensions between the two countries nearly escalated into a direct confrontation.

Senior Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid has warned the United States that any irresponsible move could endanger the lives of American troops and that any conflict in the region could spread uncontrollably, Fars News reported.

“If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing. The US government should act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region”, he said, addressing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force’s commanders in Tehran on Sunday.

He added that while the Islamic Republic doesn’t seek war with any country, including the United States, it will “powerfully defend the interests of the noble Iranian nation against any threat and aggression”.

Rashid’s comments echoed remarks made by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi who said on Saturday that the country would defend its borders “regardless of any decision” that Washington may take in relation to Tehran.

“We are ready to counter any threats against the (territorial) integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our decisions do not hinge on their decisions and we will counter any aggression whether it mingles with threats or not”, Mousavi said, as cited by Tasnim News Agency.

The statements by Iranian officials follow US President Donald Trump’s last-moment decision not to proceed with a military strike against three targets in Iran in response to the IRGC’s downing of a US spy drone on 20 June.

Even though he earlier branded the shootdown a “very big mistake” on the part of Iran, he admitted that the loss of an estimated 150 people in a potential strike was not proportionate to the loss of an unmanned drone. He, however, later clarified that he “never called the strike against Iran BACK”, but rather “stopped it from going forward at this time”.

The Iranian side insists that the Northrop Grumman-made UAV violated its international airspace and failed to reply to warnings to change the trajectory twice, therefore they shot it down in a “clear message” to Washington that Tehran would “react strongly” to any aggression.

Military officials also said that they stopped short of hitting a US reconnaissance plane with 35 airmen on board that was flying close to the downed drone to avoid human losses.

The United States has, however, come up with a counter-claim, arguing that its drone was operating over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz at the time, while President Trump told reporters that Iran was “very wise” for not downing a manned aircraft and added that “we appreciate” the decision.

Tensions between the two countries have been simmering for over a year now since Trump chose to unilaterally withdraw from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran and reinstated sanctions against Tehran. In response, the Islamic Republic announced last month that it would suspend some of its voluntary commitments under the agreement and revealed earlier this week that it would surpass its uranium stockpile limit on 27 June.

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