Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the January 3rd, 2020 killing of popular Iranian IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani, ahead of which US forces in the region, particularly Iraq, have been on high alert.
Iran has over the past days accused both Israel and the United States of seeking to provoke a “pretext for war” during the last weeks of the Trump presidency, before Biden enters office and seeks rapprochement centered on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) nuclear deal.
On Saturday Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif again leveled the charge of the Islamic Republic’s enemies seeking to stage provocations in order to give Trump a “fake casus belli”. This time more specifics were offered, with Zarif claiming Israel is seeking to do this through “Israeli agent-provocateurs” – citing unspecified intelligence in a message on Twitter.
New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans—putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.
Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 2, 2021
FM Zarif claimed “new intelligence from Iraq” shows that “Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans – putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli.”
He then added a direct threat and warning, tagging Trump in the tweet: “Be careful of a trap… Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs” – the latter being a reference to close ally Israel and perhaps the Saudis as well.
Instead of fighting Covid in US, @realDonaldTrump & cohorts waste billions to fly B52s & send armadas to OUR region
Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war.
Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 31, 2020
Days prior the US flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf in a strong deterrence message to Tehran’s leaders. Zarif slammed the move and had for the first time referenced a “plot” to “fabricate” a pretext for war.
It appears Iran thinks this will take the form of more attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad, or perhaps against bases with a strong American presence in other parts of Iraq.
Both sides are poised with fingers on the trigger in anticipation of a provocation by the other side in an intensifying standoff which could very easily escalate into the very conflict both hope to avoid.
However, there’s little doubt that some elements among both Israel’s leadership and the US national security establishment would like to see enough escalation for the US to respond with force on some level, which would certainly further hinder any future Biden efforts toward restoring the nuclear deal with Iran.