DUBAI (Reuters) -Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday accused US President Donald Trump of attempting to fabricate a pretext to attack Iran, and said Tehran would defend itself forcefully.
Separately, a military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warned Trump “not to turn the New Year into mourning for Americans”.
Zarif said in a tweet: “Instead of fighting Covid in US, @realDonaldTrump & cohorts waste billions to fly B52s & send armadas to OUR region. Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war.”
The US military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East in a message of deterrence to Iran on Wednesday, but the bombers have since left the region.
The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the Nimitz aircraft carrier, which was off the coast of Somalia, would be heading back to it’s homeport. Previously operating in the Middle East, some US officials said the move could be seen an attempt to reduce tensions in the region.
In recent days there has been increased concern and vigilance about what Iranian-backed forces might do in the lead up to the anniversary of a Jan. 3 US drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the official said.
Washington blames Iran-backed militia for regular rocket attacks on US facilities in Iraq, including near the embassy. No known Iran-backed groups have claimed responsibility.
Iran is preparing to hold events marking the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing.
“Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests,” Zarif wrote.
Hossein Dehghan, a military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Twitter: “I saw on the news that the Americans are on alert for fear of the revenge (over Soleimani’s killing) and have flown two B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf”.
“All their military bases in the region are covered by our missiles. I advise the White House evictee (Trump) not to turn the New Year into mourning for Americans,” said Dehghan, a former defense minister.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Jon Boyle, Dan Grebler and Grant McCool
Image: FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon August 14, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo