The Slatest

Top Iran Official Says Response Will Be “Against Military Sites” as Trump Threatens Strikes

Iranians take part in an anti-U.S. rally to protest the killings during a U.S. airstike of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani (picture) and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the capital Tehran on January 4, 2020.
Iranians take part in an anti-U.S. rally to protest the killings during a U.S. airstike of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani (picture) and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the capital Tehran on January 4, 2020. ATTA KENARE/Getty Images

Iran’s response to the killing of top Iranian general Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani will be “against military sites,” Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told CNN. Dehghan, a former defense minister, appeared to be trying to play down the threat of all-out conflict, saying that the country’s “leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war.” Yet Dehgan also warned against further retaliations from the United States, implying that could launch a new round of violence.

“It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions,” he said. “The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle.”

Iran's then-Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan gives a speech at the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow on April 26, 2017.
Iran’s then-Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan gives a speech at the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow on April 26, 2017. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/Getty Images

Dehghan spoke shortly after President Donald Trump warned that his administration had identified “52 Iranian sites” that will be targeted if Tehran decides to launch an attack to retaliate against the killing of Soleimani. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” Trump wrote. The president did not identify the targets but said they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

Dehghan characterized the tweets as “ridiculous and absurd,” calling Trump a “veritable gangster and a gambler,” adding that “he is no politician, he has no mental stability.” If Trump does strike any Iran cultural sites, “for sure no American military staff, no American political center, no American military base, no American vessel will be safe,” he added. Responding to Trump’s tweets, Information and Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi wrote that “Trump is a ‘terrorist in a suit’.” Iran summoned the Swiss envoy that represents U.S. interests in Tehran on Sunday to protest “Trump’s hostile remarks,” Iranian state television reported.

Shortly before Trump sent out his threatening tweets, the White House formally notified Congress under the War Powers Act of the operation that killed Soleimani. The notification is required to be issued within 48 hours of U.S. forces being introduced into an armed conflict or any event that could lead to war. The document that was sent late Saturday only had classified information that is expected to detail the justification for the assassination. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the notification “raises more questions than it answers.” The document Pelosi added, “prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran.”