Israel may try to provoke war with attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, says Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at “Common Security in the Islamic World” forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 29, 2019. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday accused Israel of trying to provoke a war by planning attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

“New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans — putting an outgoing [President Donald] Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli [act justifying war],” Zarif said in a tweet, according to Reuters.

“Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly,” Zarif wrote.

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 U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, according to a U.S. official.

NBC News cited a U.S. official as saying on Friday that the United States had seen increasing indirections that Iran could be planning an attack against American forces or interests in the Middle East.

The official further said that reading Iran’s intensions was “difficult and at times unpredictable”, adding that the indications were being taken seriously.

The United States and Iraq have warned Iran and Iranian-backed militias that any attack on American diplomats or military personnel would be met with swift retaliation, the Wall Stree Journal reported on Friday.

Esmail Ghaani who succeeded Soleimani as head of the elite Quds Force said on Friday that Iran was still ready to respond.

“From inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime,” he said at a televised event to mark the anniversary at Tehran University.

“American mischief will not deter the Quds force from carrying on its resistance path,” he added.

Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew over the Middle East on December 30 in what U.S. officials said was a message of deterrence to Iran ahead of the first anniversary.

On December 31, Zarif accused U.S. President Donald Trump of attempting to fabricate a pretext to attack Iran, and said Tehran would defend itself forcefully.

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