TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- An adviser to the Leader the of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is warning that any American attack on the Islamic Republic could set off a "full-fledged war” in the Mideast in the waning days of the Trump administration.
"We don’t welcome a crisis. We don’t welcome war. We are not after starting a war,” the Associated Press quoted Hussein Dehqan as saying. "But we are not after negotiations for the sake of negotiations either.”
Dehqan, 63, described himself as a "nationalist” with "no conventional political tendency” during an interview in his wood-paneled office in downtown Tehran.
The former head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s air force who achieved the rank of brigadier general said any negotiations with the West could not include Iran’s ballistic missiles, which he described as a "deterrent” to Tehran’s adversaries.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not negotiate its defensive power ... with anybody under any circumstances,” Dehqan said. "Missiles are a symbol of the massive potential that is in our experts, young people and industrial centers.”
Dehqan, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury since November 2019, warned against any American military escalation in Trump’s final weeks in office.
"A limited, tactical conflict can turn into a full-fledged war,” he said. "Definitely, the United States, the region and the world cannot stand such a comprehensive crisis.”
President-elect Joe Biden has said he’s willing to return to the nuclear deal, which saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment. Since Trump’s withdrawal, Iran has gone beyond all the deal’s restrictions while still allowing United Nations nuclear inspectors to work in the country. Dehqan said those UN checks should continue so long as an inspector is not a "spy.”
In the time since, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site exploded and caught fire in July. Dehqan said that reconstruction at Natanz was ongoing. He described the incident as "industrial sabotage.”
"Those who were in charge of installing some devices possibly made some changes there that led to the explosion,” Dehqan said, without elaborating.
Dehghan vehemently denied he was involved in the bombing, though he was the Guard’s top commander there at the time.
He also said the U.S. tries to link anything happening in the world to someone in Iran.
While stressing he wanted to avoid conflict, Dehqan warned that the occupying regime of Israel’s expanding presence in the Mideast could turn into a "strategic mistake.” The Zionist regime just reached normalization deals with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
"It is opening an extensive front,” he said. "Just imagine every Israeli in any military base can be a target for groups who are opposed to Israel.”
Dehqan also said Iran continues to seek the expulsion of all American forces from the region as revenge for the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that martyred Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of its expeditionary Quds Force in January. That strike saw Iran launch a retaliatory ballistic missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq that injured at least 110 American troops.
Iran’s retaliatory strikes were a mere "initial slap,” Dehqan said. And there would be no easy return to negotiations with the U.S. in part due to that, he added.
"We do not seek a situation in which (the other party) buys time to weaken our nation,” he said.