Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday that any US or Saudi military strike against his country would result in an “all-out war”.
“I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want war; we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation … But we won’t blink to defend our territory,” Zarif told CNN.
US Secretary of State Pompeo, who was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in the wake of the drone attacks on its oil plants last weekend, backed Riyadh’s “right to defend itself” and said that Iran’s behaviour would “not be tolerated”.
“The Saudis were the nation that was attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly,” he told reporters before heading to UAE, a close US ally in the region.
The US has accused Iran of being behind the attack – a charge Iran has denied and warned the US it would retaliate “immediately” if targeted over the attacks.
Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels have claimed the attack, saying it is over the years long Saudi-led war there that’s killed tens of thousands of people.
But Saudi and US officials have pointed fingers at Iran for the attack on Aramco oil facilities at Abqaiq that knocked out half of its oil production, pushing global crude prices upwards.
A Saudi defence ministry spokesman said on Wednesday there was no way the attacks could have been launched from Yemen.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” Saudi Colonel Turki al-Malki said. “We are working to know the exact launch point.”
Zarif also said that the top US diplomat was trying to delay issuing visas for the Iranian delegation to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
He did no clarify whether the delay may be linked to the United States’ blacklisting of Zarif at the end of July.
.@SecPompeo tries to dodge US obligation to issue visas for UN delegates by resorting to self-arrogated designations.
A history lesson, perhaps, for my novice counterpart:
Nelson Mandela was on U.S. Terrorist Watch List until 2008; 15 years after receiving Nobel Peace Prize.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 19, 2019
The attacks have reignited fears over a wider conflagration in the region, as tensions remain high over Iran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
In another tweet Zarif accused US allies and officials of trying to “deceive” President Donald Trump into entering a war against Tehran.
“‘Act of war’ or AGITATION for WAR? Remnants of #B_Team (+ambitious allies) try to deceive @realdonaldtrump into war,” Zarif wrote, with a hashtag he often used to refer to former national security adviser John Bolton and other world leaders.
He added: “For their own sake, they should pray that they won’t get what they seek.”