TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hussein Salami said on Sunday Iran is not seeking war, while its enemies are afraid of confronting the Islamic Republic.
"The difference between us and them is that they are afraid of war and don't have the will for it," Salami said.
Nevertheless, the IRGC has operationalized its resources against foreign threats close to its territory, the commander added.
"When a threat is posed from afar, we think about it on a strategic level, but when it comes close, we become active on operational levels as well,” he said.
In a sudden escalation, the Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region, and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarm among Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.
Former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday joined those dismissing the threat of war despite increasing American tensions in the Persian Gulf.
"Going to war with Iran?” the Republican senator from Utah asked on CNN’s State of the Union. "Not going to happen.”
On Thursday, the New York Times said U.S. President Donald Trump had told the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran.
Trump’s statement, during a Wednesday morning meeting in the Situation Room, sent a message to his hawkish aides that he does not want the intensifying American pressure campaign against the Iranians to explode into open conflict.
The newspaper cited serious divisions among administration officials about Iran, amid debate that some of Trump’s aides are exaggerating the Islamic Republic’s moves.
On Saturday, General Salami hit the U.S. political system, saying it "is full of cracks".
"Though impressive-looking, it has osteoporosis. In fact, America's story is like the World Trade Center towers that collapse with a sudden blow."
The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Democrats in Congress will be briefed on Iran this week by former CIA director John Brennan, a stringent critic of Trump, and Wendy Sherman, a former state department official who helped negotiate the Iran deal.
Romney seemed unperturbed.
"I don’t believe for a minute,” he said, "that either the president or John Bolton or anyone else in a serious senior position of leadership in the White House has any interest in going to the Middle East and going to war. That’s just not going to happen, there’s no interest in doing that.
"So going to war with Iran? Not going to happen. Look, the president made it very clear that he thinks the greatest foreign policy mistake probably in the modern age was the decision by President Bush to go into Iraq. The idea that he would follow that by going after Iran, a more difficult enemy if you will, that’s just not going to happen.”
A ramp-up in military posturing by the U.S. followed by mysterious attacks on several oil tankers off the UAE emirate of Fujairah last week has put American allies in the Persian Gulf on edge.
Last week, stock markets in the regional Arab states suffered their biggest single-day decline in years after reports of the attacks emerged. Drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on Saudi oil installations later compounded those woes.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince discussed regional developments in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Saudi Media Ministry tweeted on Sunday.
The announcement came hours after the Saudi king invited Persian Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits to discuss the implications of this week’s attacks against oil installations in the kingdom and oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir who is known for incendiary rhetoric made a conciliatory statement, saying the kingdom wants to avert war in the region.
Riyadh has accused Tehran of ordering Tuesday’s drone strikes on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom. Iran has denied any involvement in the operation.
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region nor does it seek that,” al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh Sunday.
The minister then turned to his usual combative stance with regard to Iran.
"We want peace and stability in the region but we will not sit on our hands in light of the continuing Iranian attack,” Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran’s court and it is up to Iran to determine what its fate will be.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday invited Persian Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss implications of the attacks.
"The current critical circumstances entail a unified Arab stance toward the besetting challenges and risks,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement.
The head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi, derided Riyadh’s call to convene Arab summits, saying in a Twitter post that they "only know how to support war and destruction”.