Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened that U.S. military personnel and warships in the region are within the range of Iranian missiles.
The threat from Iran came as the U.S. Air Force announced on Sunday June 2 that a B-52 bomber and USS Abraham Lincoln dispatched to the region following Iran's new threats have started exercises in the Arabian Sea.
At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington is prepared to hold talks with Iran "without any preconditions." Iran's foreign ministry spokesman immediately responded, saying what counts for Iran is U.S. actions, not "a play on words"..
Hours later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an address to a gathering in Tehran said the U.S. is the party that has left the nuclear agreement and in order to negotiate, its should "return to the normal state of affairs". Otherwise, he reiterated, "we no option but to stand firm and resist".
Rahim Safavi, a former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), who is currently Khamenei's top military adviser, told IRGC-linked Fars news agency on Sunday that "The United States has more than 25 military bases in the region where over 20,000 U.S. military personnel are based."
Rahim Safavi added that "U.S. officials are aware that their military personnel and the U.S. and other foreign fleets in the Persian Gulf are within the range of IRGC's shore to sea missiles."
Khamenei's adviser claimed that "The first bullet fired in the Persian Gulf will raise the price of oil to over $100 per barrel in the world market.
He added that "the U.S. President will not start any war if it is not in his interest from an economic point of view," adding that the United States has started its withdrawal two weeks ago. Rahim Safavi did not further elaborate on what he meant by U.S. withdrawal.
The United States, Europe and Arab countries have always criticized Iran for its ballistic missile program. The United States deployed more military equipment and personnel to the region in May in reaction to Iran's new threats.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have charged that Iran was involved in attacks to shipping off the United Arab Emirates in the Sea of Oman and implicated Tehran in the Iran-backed Houthi rebels' drone attacks on Saudi oil establishments.
In the meantime, a statement issued by U.S. Air Force broke the news about exercises by a B-52 bomber and USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea following the new Iranian threats.
Super Hornet F/A-18, Sea Hawk MH-60 helicopters and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft also did take part in the exercise on Saturday.
According to the statement by U.S. Air Force, USS Abraham Lincoln in this exercise simulated assault operations.
The United States has deployed USS Abraham Lincoln, several B-52 bombers and 1500 additional troops to the Middle East.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a press conference in Switzerland on Sunday that the United States is ready to hold talks with Iran "with no pre-conditions."
Pompeo said, "We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions," adding however, that "We are ready to sit down with them, but the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue."
Pompeo reiterated that although Washington is ready for talks with Iran in order to ease tensions, it will continue its policy of maximum pressure on Tehran in order to change its behavior.
Iranian officials, including president Rouhani have repeatedly said that if Washington wants talks it should stop its policy of pressuring Iran.
U.S. sanctions have dramatically affected Iran's economy following the U.S. pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran, leading to sharp evaluation of the Iranian currency and a near-halt in the country's oil export and international banking.