The threat from Iran has changed to become “more of a campaign” than previously, according to General Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with a “perception that activity would try to be synchronized in time.”

Dunford told a Brookings Institution forum on Wednesday that “we also saw in the intelligence there was a question about both the will and capability of the U.S. to respond… Malign activity and threats to our forces by the Iranians were not new, but a more widespread, almost campaign-like perspective for the Iranians is.”

On Tuesday, the chief of Iran’s IRGC had echoed this, claiming Iran has “experienced and defeated all of the enemy’s scenarios.” Salami added that “we have been able to shatter enemy psyops and dry up the enemy’s capacity for war… Iran’s reach is no more confined to within its borders; Iran is a robust power in the region… We have received so many threats that we are saturated.”

A day later, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said that “Iran is prepared for the possibility of war with the United States, we hope that we can start a dialogue, but we are ready for war.” Araqchi also claimed “there are certain elements and people who are trying to push the United States to war with Iran for their own ends. However, we hope that wisdom will prevail in Washington,” adding that “such a conflict would be catastrophic for the entire Middle East.”

Araqchi’s comments were later updated, to deny that he had said he would welcome talks with the U.S. “As we have announced on repeated occasions,” he clarified, “there have been no direct or indirect talks with the U.S.”

Araqchi was responding to John Bolton’s claim that Iran was “almost certainly” responsible for the sabotage of four oil tankers earlier in the month. “I think it is clear these [attacks] were naval mines almost certainly from Iran,” the U.S. National Security Adviser told reporters during a visit to Abu Dhabi, adding that there had been a previously undisclosed attempted attack on the Saudi Arabian port of Yanbu, although this was not confirmed.

“Are there people who might like the United States to do something?” Dunford said. “That speculation is out there, but I can guarantee you, that’s not going to inform the military advice I’m going to provide. I am very familiar with the consequences of going to war and take the responsibility of providing military advice in that regard seriously.”

“Mr. Bolton and other warmongers,” claimed a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, “need to know that the strategic patience, high vigilance and full defense readiness of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which emanates from the strong resolve of its great nation, will not let them fulfill their ominous schemes to create chaos in the region.”

Bolton met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed on Wednesday to discuss collaboration on counter-terrorism and regional security, according to state media. Bolton also talked about the broken nuclear deal which has been the cause of spiraling tensions in recent weeks, suggesting that Iran’s motivation for breaching its obligations was down to atomic weapon aspiration: “There’s no reason for them to do it unless it is to reduce the breakout time to nuclear weapons,” he told reporters.

A German intelligence report published this week appeared to back this up, claiming that Iran is “making efforts to expand its conventional arsenal of weapons with weapons of mass destruction.” The Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, broadly equivalent to the FBI or MI5, defined this as covering “atomic bombs as well as biological and chemical weapons,” and claimed that “in order to obtain the necessary know-how and corresponding components, [Iran, North Korea, Pakistan] are trying to establish business contacts to companies in highly technological countries like Germany.”

In addition to the alleged attacks on Saudi Arabia, Iran also took the opportunity on Wednesday of stirring further tensions with Israel, America’s other main ally in the region in Iran’s mind. President Rouhani told cabinet meeting that “the Iranian nation has always helped other nations, and we have helped the oppressed in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen… There was a time when the Palestinians used to defend themselves only with rocks and stones, but today, they have worked hard and developed a tool to give powerful responses to Israelis”.

State media reported that “Rouhani urged the Iranian people to turn out en masse for Friday’s [Quds Day] rallies and to show their all-time support for the Palestinian nation in the face of Israel until ultimate victory.”

“The door of negotiations is not closed,” Rouhani said as regards the broader regional military standoff, “provided the U.S. lifts the sanctions and fulfills its commitments.”

“People can question the veracity of the intelligence,” General Dunford said on Wednesday. “All I would say is, since that weekend, there have been ships that have been hit with mines, there have been [drone] strikes, there have been rocket strikes in the proximity of the United States Embassy in Iraq. All since the 3rd, 4th and the 5th [of May].”

Forces deployed to the region, Dunford said, “were designed to enhance our force protection… accompanied by a message that this was not intended to be a provocation. This is not intended to reinforce our offensive capability in the region. This is designed to protect our people, much like the previous force elements we sent in were designed to enhance our deterrence.”

As ever, Iran’s rhetoric servers multiple audiences. This week will likely see escalated tension and increased bluster to incite public defiance in the eyes of the world’s media. The message that Iran is more up for a battle than its enemies has been peddled for some time now. It is a theme that can be traced back through recent weeks of military and political rhetoric from Iran’s leadership. And in poking at Israel and Saudi Arabia, somewhere in the Teheran power structure this theory is being tested out.

Source » forbes