(Persia Digest) - Iran's envoy to the United Kingdom has warned that his country and the U.S. are getting closer to a potential conflict, one he warned Washington would regret.
Asked by CNN where escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran could lead, Tehran's ambassador to London, Hamid Baeidinejad, said that, "unfortunately, we are heading towards a confrontation, which is very serious for everybody in the region."
Tom O'Connor writes in Newsweek that Baeidinejad stopped short of predicting the possibility of U.S. plans for a limited strike in the Persian Gulf, but argued that such plans may already be underway in a bid to spark a fight.
"I'm sure this is a scenario where some people are forcefully working on it, they will drag the United States into a confrontation. I hope that the people in Washington will be very careful not to underestimate the Iranian determination," Baeidinejad told CNN. "If they wrongly enter into a conflict, they would be very sorry about that, because we are fully prepared by our government and our forces that we would not be submitting to the United States."
He explained that Iran was not opposed to negotiations but that the U.S. should "not interfere" Iran's economic relationships with other countries, a tactic he referred to as "economic terrorism."
The U.S. and Iran, rivals since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted a West-backed monarchy and brought a clerical leadership to power in Tehran, have witnessed a steady escalation in tensions since President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal last year. In leaving the agreement—still supported by fellow signatories China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K.—the U.S. has targeted Iran with mounting sanctions designed to sever its international trade ties.
Last month, White House national security adviser John Bolton announced the early deployment of a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East amid "troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" suggesting Iran may target U.S. regional interests. Around this same time, Iran said it would reconsider some of its commitments to the nuclear accord as incentives to stay dwindled.
Europe has struggled to implement measures allowing countries to trade with Iran while facing the threat of U.S. sanctions, so Tehran has begun to increase its enrichment of uranium, though it has argued that this was strictly for energy purposes. Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and though it has not discussed enriching uranium to "weapons-grade" levels, the "highly-enriched" levels set to be reached in the coming days has raised concerns for those still hoping to salvage the deal.
Instead of weighing in on the issue himself on Monday, Trump simply wrote out the chyron of a Fox News report on the subject, tweeting, "Iran to defy Uranium Stockpile Limits."
Further fueling frictions in the region, two foreign-flagged oil tankers were recently targeted by explosions in yet unclaimed attacks that the U.S. has officially blamed on Iran. Top figures in Tehran have previously threatened to disrupt international trade in the world's most important oil chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz, less than 100 miles away from the Gulf of Oman incidents in response to the Trump administration's self-styled "maximum pressure" campaign.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted to the attacks by saying "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe" them, especially as the vessels involved were carrying "Japan-related" cargo at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was holding a historic meeting in Tehran with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Others such as Germany were part of a growing chorus of countries casting doubt on the U.S. claims toward Iran's alleged involvement in the attacks, which followed the targeting of four commercial tankers in the same area last month. China and Russia have also joined in on calling for restraint as the Pentagon released a grainy video purporting to show Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards removing a limpet mine from one of the damaged ships—an alleged act that the Trump administration claimed proved Iran's culpability.
Zarif has repeatedly warned that the so-called "B-Team" involving Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.A.E. President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were trying to steer the U.S. and Iran towards war.
On Monday, Baeidinejad said he was unaware of who was behind the recent attacks in the Gulf of Oman but maintained that "there are countries in the region and beyond the region who have invested heavily, billions and billions of dollars to draft the United States into a conflict with Iran."
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