Iran’s leaders will think twice before issuing fiery statements and brazen hollow threats against the US. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders’ inflammatory rhetoric will backfire as they will be held accountable for their words and Tehran in turn to bear the dire consequences, according to observers. An evidence of US decisive response to Iran's threats is the statements of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo said on Saturday he sent a letter to Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, the elite branch of IRGC, and Iranian leaders expressing concern regarding Iran’s increasingly threatening behavior in Iraq.
Speaking during a panel at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Southern California, Pompeo said he sent the letter after the senior Iranian military commander had indicated that forces under his control might attack US forces in Iraq.
“What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control,” Pompeo told the panel.
“We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”
Soleimani refused to open the letter, according to Pompeo, who took over the CIA in January.
Iranian media earlier quoted Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying an unnamed CIA contact had tried to give a letter to Soleimani when he was in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal in November during the fighting against ISIS.
“I will not take your letter nor read it and I have nothing to say to these people,” Golpayegani quoted Soleimani as saying, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.
It was reported in October that Soleimani had repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed terrorists, and had traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders.
The presence of Soleimani on the frontlines highlights Tehran’s influence in Iraq, and comes as Shia Iran seeks to win a proxy war in the Middle East with its regional rival and US ally, Saudi Arabia.
“You need to only look to the past few weeks and the efforts of the Iranians to exert influence now in northern Iraq in addition to other places in Iraq to see that Iranian efforts to be the hegemonic power throughout the Middle East continues to increase,” Pompeo said.
In October, Iran warned the United States against designating its IRGC as a terrorist group and said US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed.
The warning came after the White House said that US President Donald Trump would announce new US responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy.
“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” IRGC’s commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said.
“If the news is correct considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world particularly in the Middle East,” Jafari said.
IRGC are Iran’s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not.
According to observers, Pompeo’s letter to Soleimani and Khamenei reveals that Iran’s threats against the US are empty and raise no concerns.
However, any attempt to target Washington’s interests in the Middle East or worldwide will be met with a firm and swift reaction, they noted.
Currently, the world has united to confront Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the region. If Tehran attacked US troops, they would eventually pay a heavy price, they concluded.