With the United States and Iran accusing each other of increasing tensions in the Middle East, the Iranian military rattled its saber by stating that it’s fully capable of responding to any U.S. “military adventurism” in the region.
Adding to the already tense situation, Israel and Saudi Arabia are pressuring Washington to carry out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before the Biden administration takes office, according to the Arabic language newspaper Dar Al-Hayat.
Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the report stated that the Israelis and Saudis have, “exerted heavy pressure on the president to take out Iran’s nuclear installations in a surgical strike” in order to neuter Biden’s election promise to bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiation table.
On Friday, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Hossein Salami, spoke at Tehran University at a ceremony commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of MG Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was the head of Iran’s Quds Force that has been behind the deaths of hundreds of Americans through proxy forces. The U.S. killed him in a drone strike shortly after he arrived in Baghdad’s airport on January 3 of last year.
Speaking to a crowd that included members of Soleimani’s family as well as contingents of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian people, Salami said Iran was ready to confront any challenge. He didn’t specifically mention the United States.
“Today, we have no problem, concern, or apprehension toward encountering any powers. We will give our final words to our enemies on the battlefield,” Salami said.
Solemani’s replacement, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, hinted that “freedom seekers” inside the U.S. could retaliate for Soleimani’s assassination. “Inside your own home, there might be those who want to respond to the crime that you committed,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry posted on Twitter that anyone linked to Soleimani’s killing must be brought to justice:
“By committing a craven act of terror against Gen. Soleimani, the U.S. violated [international] law & the UN Charter in a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” “The [U.S.’s] lawlessness in full show. Iran won’t rest until bringing those responsible to justice.”
By committing a craven act of terror against Gen Soleimani, the US violated int'l law & the UN Charter in a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
— Iran Foreign Ministry 🇮🇷 (@IRIMFA_EN) January 1, 2021
As the anniversary of Soleimani’s death is upon us, both sides have increased their military footprint in the region. Iranian naval units have increased their naval forces’ readiness level in the past few days. They have also moved more short-range ballistic missiles into Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States has been flying B-52 bombers over the Middle East in a show of force. On December 30, two long-range B-52s overtly flew non-stop from the U.S. to the Middle East as a deterrent to Iran. The U.S. had also conducted overflights of the region with B-52s in late November and again in early December.
The November overflight occurred just after suspected Iranian-proxy militias had fired rockets that landed inside the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. In late December, another rocket attack, the largest in over 10 years, rocked the Green Zone in Baghdad.
The December attack coincided with the appearance of a U.S. guided-missile submarine in the Persian Gulf on December 21. The submarine highlighted the firepower available to American forces as well as their ability to transport and deploy special operations troops.
Intelligence officials are split on whether Iran will respond to the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing by attacking American interests in the region. One official told the Washington Post that the threat situation is the “most concerning that I have seen” since Soleimani’s assassination last year. On the other hand, another source said to CNN that there is “not a single piece of corroborating intel” indicating any imminent attack.