BAGHDAD (AP) – Iran has instructed allies throughout the Middle East to be on high alert and avoid provoking tensions with the United States, which could prompt an extroverted Trump administration to launch attacks in the U.S. president’s last week in office. officials said.
The request – made by a senior Iranian general to allies in Baghdad this week – reflects the growing regional anxiety over President Donald Trump’s unpredictable behavior and the uncertainty of the chaotic transition period until President-elect Joe Biden takes over in two months.
Trump also unilaterally withdrew America in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal with the world powers, which was to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and reintroduce sanctions against Iran and paralyzed its economy.
Iran has since given up all borders on its uranium enrichment program, and other international partners in the agreement have tried unsuccessfully to save it. The upcoming Biden administration has announced plans to join or renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal.
But there is growing concern about what Trump, who refuses to concede the election, can do in the final days of his presidency – including a potential strike on America’s enemies abroad. On Thursday, an adviser to Iran’s top leader warned in an interview with the Associated Press that any US attack on Iran could trigger a “full-fledged war” in the region.
“We do not welcome war. We are not after starting a war, ”said Hossein Dehghan, who served in Iran’s paramilitary revolutionary before becoming defense minister under President Hassan Rouhani.
The concern does not appear to be rooted in anything concrete – Trump has in fact ordered a downsizing of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. should end in mid-January – but rather general nervousness over the unpredictability of Trump’s actions. His firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper two days after the election sparked a stream of speculation as to whether it was related to a broader plan to strike abroad.
Iraq, where the rivalry between the United States and Iran has mainly played out, is seen as a potential arena. Frequent attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad in recent months led to a frustrated Trump administration threatening to close the mission, a move that sparked a diplomatic crisis and diplomatic back-channel message that led to an informal ceasefire a few weeks before the US election.
With two months left until a Biden administration takes over, Iranian General Esmail Ghaani, leader of the Guard’s Expeditionary Force, delivered Tehran’s request during a meeting with Iranian – backed Iraqi militia factions and Shiite politicians in Baghdad this week, according to two senior Iraqi Shiite politicians. , who attended the meetings in Baghdad.
The message: Stand down to avoid giving Trump the opportunity to launch a new tit-for-tat round of violence.
And to the Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries: Be calm and stop attacking for now against US presence in Iraq.
However, if there was a US aggression from the Trump administration, Iran’s response would “be in line with the type of strike,” one Iraqi politician quoted Ghaani as saying.
An Iraqi government official also confirmed Ghaani’s meetings with Iranian-backed factions in Iraq this week. All Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meetings.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group, Hasan Nasrallah, in Lebanon warned supporters and allies to pay attention during Trump’s remaining week in office.
“We all … need to be on alert for the next two months so it goes peacefully,” Nasrallah said in television statements earlier this month, even as he urged supporters to “be prepared to face any danger, aggression or harm “and to respond naturally” if the folly of the United States or Israel goes that far. “
But just hours after Ghaani delivered Iran’s message in Baghdad – and while he was still in Iraq – a barrage of Katyusha rockets was fired at the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified green zone, which landed a few hundred meters from the US embassy. A pair of rockets landing just outside the green zone killed one child and wounded five civilians.
The attack – contrary to instructions to avoid escalation – could indicate potential disagreement within the militia or a deliberate plan by the factions to offer mixed messages and keep their intentions ambiguous.
A lesser-known militia group, Ashab al-Kahf, believed to have links to the powerful Kataib Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. For his part, Kataib Hezbollah denied that it had carried out the blockade, claiming that the ceasefire, which began in October, was still in place.
This claim was countered by Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the powerful Iran-oriented Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia group, who in a television interview on Thursday said the ceasefire had ended.