Responding to the President Donald Trump's charge on Wednesday that Iran or its proxies are "planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops or assets in Iraq", Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif on Thursday said Iran has "friends", not "proxies" and warned that Iran would "teach lessons" to those who "start wars".
"Don’t be mislead by usual warmongers, again," Zarif wrote in his tweet addressed to the U.S. President and said: "Iran has friends. No one can have millions of 'proxies'," and added: "Unlike the US—which surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates—Iran only acts in self-defense. Openly".
At a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday President Donald Trump had said: "We don't want hostility, but if they are hostile to us, they're going to regret it like they've never regretted anything before".
In a tweet earlier on Wednesday, he had warned that "upon information and belief" Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack were "planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq."
"If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!" Trump had said in his tweet.
U.S. intelligence about a potential Iran-backed attack against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq suggest that it would likely be a deniable attack, as opposed to the kind overt missile strike that Tehran carried out in January, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Iranian officials have been warning in recent days that the United States is preparing an attack on its proxy forces in Iraq. The foreign ministry warned April 1 that the U.S. is making threatening moves in Iraq, instead of leaving the country as Iraqis “demand”.
In a press conference on Thursday Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri (Bagheri), said Iran is closely following the movements of U.S. forces in Iraq and the region.
What is happening in Iraq is the "natural reaction of the Iraqi people and the forces of resistance" in response to the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani and has no connection with Iran, he declared and threatened that Iran "will show the harshest of reactions" if the United States "makes the smallest move against Iran's national security".
In the meantime, reports said on Monday the U.S. increased the number of its Patriot anti-air defense systems around Iraqi military bases where American troops are deployed. The U.S. has also relocated its forces from four bases, in a move seen by Iran and its proxies as preparation for some sort of military action.
Meanwhile, Iran's Qods (Quds) Force Commander General Esmail Qaani (Ghaani) whose predecessor Qassem Soleimani was targeted by the United States in Baghdad on January 3, arrived in Baghdad on Monday to mediate among Iraqi political leaders and break the deadlock in the formation of Prime Minister-designate Andan al-Zurfi's government.