WASHINGTON — The White House wouldn’t confirm or deny an Australian report that leaders there expect President Trump to bomb Iran as early as next month.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “senior figures in the Turnbull government” said the United States is “prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear capability,” with assistance from Aussie and British intelligence to identify targets.
“Developing a picture is very different to actually participating in a strike,” a security source told ABC. “Providing intelligence and understanding as to what is happening on the ground so that the government and allied governments are fully informed to make decisions is different to active targeting.”
The Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap in Australia’s Northern Territory is partly run by the CIA and NSA, and controls U.S. spy satellites passing over Asia and the Middle East. The U.S., UK and Australia, along with Canada and New Zealand, comprise the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
ABC reported that the Australian government is divided over whether they think Trump is ready to act or whether his Twitter threats to Iran were bluster.
In a televised speech Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, stating that the U.S. can’t block Iranian oil from the international market, said to Trump, “Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it.”
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.
He added, “Do not forget that we have maintained the security of [the Strait of Hormuz] throughout history. We have historically secured the route of oil transit. Do not forget it.”
Trump tweeted Sunday evening, “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted in response, “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED: The world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago. And Iranians have heard them —albeit more civilized ones—for 40 yrs. We’ve been around for millennia & seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Revolutiary Guards Corps Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani said in a speech Thursday, “I, as a soldier, respond to Trump. Mr. Trump! How do you dare to threaten us?”
“We are closer to you than what you think. You should know that I am your foe. The Quds Force alone and not all the (Iranian) Armed Forces is enough to be your rival (in any confrontation). You are aware of Iran’s power in asymmetric war,” Soleimani said, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.
“You should know that there is not even a single night that we don’t think of destroying you,” he continued. “…We are so close to you in places that you might not even think of. Come to us! We are waiting for you. You know that this war (against Iran) means destruction of all of your possibilities. You may start the war, but we decide when it should end. Do not threaten us with killing. We are thirsty for martyrdom and annihilation of arrogant powers.”
On Air Force One, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley referred reporters to the Defense Department on the Australian report of an imminent strike.
“What I can tell you is the president has been very clear about where he stands on Iran,” Gidley said. “And their actions — their destabilization of the region, their desire and efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon — it’s one of the reasons that he called the Iran deal the worst deal he’d ever seen, the worst deal in history, and why he got out of it. Because now we know that the Iran deal did not prevent a pathway to — prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; it actually paved it.”
“But we’re working with our partners and allies to try and get Iran to change its behavior and stop its action across the region,” he added. “And we’re working with Israel to do the same thing.”
Asked if a strike was one of the options to get Iran to change its behavior, Gidley replied, “I’m not going to get ahead of any options. As you know, the president doesn’t telegraph anything he’s going to do in those matters.”