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Iran, U.S. Exchange Bellicose Warnings; UK Warns Tehran To Be Cautious

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) sail alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in the Arabian Sea, May 17,
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) sail alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in the Arabian Sea, May 17,

As tensions grow between Tehran and Washington, the British foreign secretary warned Iran not to test the United States' resolve; the EU called on both sides to calm down and Iraqi politicians expressed concern over Baghdad being dragged into a possible conflict as rockets landed near U.S Embassy.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif angrily responded to U.S. President Donald Trump's Tweet in which he had said Sunday evening, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran, and warned," Never threaten the United States again!"

Trump’s tweet immediately followed news that a rocket had landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, not too far from the U.S. embassy.

Zarif called Trump's words "genocidal taunts," adding that "Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors were all gone. Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won't 'end Iran'," Zarif wrote on Twitter. "Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect -- it works!" he added.

Trump said on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East, adding that Tehran has been very hostile toward Washington.

Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for an event in Pennsylvania he was still willing to have talks with Iran "when they're ready." This was seen as a slight softening of his earlier tough tweet.

During the past week, social media users noted that Zarif "mentions" Trump in various tweets, hoping that the U.S. chief executive would respond to him and start a conversation. Others doubted that Trump would respond to anyone other than Iran's top leaders, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or President Hassan Rouhani.

Regardless of the bitterly tactful exchange on twitter, tensions between Tehran and Washington appear to be dangerously on the rise following the rocket attack in Baghdad Sunday evening. All along the past week tension was bubbling in the region as mysterious explosions in the Persian Gulf endangered shipping and Houthi drones attacked Saudi oil establishments near the capital.

Just hours after Zarif's reply to Trump, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Iran not to test the United States' will.

"I would say to the Iranians: Do not underestimate the resolve on the U.S. side," UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said while in Geneva for a UN conference in Geneva.

Hunt said "They don't want a war with Iran," However, he warned, "But if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate. And that is something that the Iranians need to think about very, very carefully."

In the meantime, Oman's Foreign Minister Rushed to Tehran Monday morning May 20 apparently in a bid to help ease the rising tensions between Tehran and DC.

Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, who in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, discussed regional and international issues with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian state news agency IRNA said.

Meanwhile, concerns have been rising in Iraq over the possible ramifications of the Tehran-Washington tension in Iraq. Following Sunday evening's events, prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and several other Iraqi politicians warned against dragging Baghdad into a conflict between Iran and the United States.

"We need peace and construction and any party who drags Iraq into war and turn it into a battlefield will be the enemy of the Iraqi people," Sadr said, while Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Shiite militia, warned against "giving pretexts to the war between Iran and the United States, " adding that "The war will harm Iraq’s political, economic and security stability."

However, the definitive words came out of Iraq's Parliament as Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Iraqi parliament’s al-Fatah bloc, warned in a statement "if war breaks out, it will burn all."

Anticipating some kind of escalation between Iran or its regional proxies and the United States following the exchange of bellicose threats between the two, the European Union warned against further provocations.

"The region does not need further elements of destabilization. This is something that we have been saying consistently," said EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. "Any provocations must be avoided and all efforts should be made to defuse tensions," she added.

Both Iranian and U.S. officials have said repeatedly during the past ten days that although they do not want a war with the other side, they would retaliate if their interests are attacked.

IRGC Commander Hossein Salami said on May 19 that Iran does not seek war, but is not afraid of it either and U.S. President vowed on the same day that war between Washington and Tehran would result in "the official end of Iran."