Iran’s foreign minister has hit back at President Donald Trump’s threats to “end” Iran, marking a fresh escalation of the war of words between the two countries despite recent efforts to defuse military tensions.
On Sunday, Trump threatened devastating military action against Iran after a rocket landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which was subject to evacuation of all non-emergency staff last week.
It is not yet clear what group was behind the attack, but Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
In recent weeks, tensions have been rising between the two nations, raising the specter of a catastrophic war in the Middle East. Though additional U.S. forces have been deployed to the region and though Iran has reportedly been readying its conventional and proxy forces for possible attacks, both sides have said they do not want war.
Regardless, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chose to chastise Trump publicly on Monday, using the president’s favorite method of communication.
The minister suggested in a series of tweets that the president was being “goaded” by what he has termed the “B-Team”—a group supposedly pushing for war with Iran that includes National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Zarif said Trump—like “other aggressors” before him including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan—would fail to humble Iran. “Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone,” he added. Though the ancient Persians were defeated and conquered by Alexander and their descendants subjugated by Genghis Khan, the Persian people and culture have endured.
“#EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran,’ Zarif declared. He ended the tweet by advising Trump to “#NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect—it works!”
Trump’s threat came despite recent reports that he is consistently championing a diplomatic solution to the current stand-off with Iran, the roots of which lie with the president’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump believes the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is not comprehensive enough, and wants a new deal that places restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional influence. Tehran has flatly rejected the suggestion.
The president is reportedly under pressure from more hawkish advisers and allies who are pushing for a military confrontation with Iran. Bolton, for example, is a well-known proponent of military action against the theocratic regime, and was the official who announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, group of B-52 bombers and a patriot missile battery to the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, Russia, on May 8.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images