The US has said it will “deter and respond” to Iran’s “threats and provocations” after the Middle Eastern country slapped sanctions against 51 American nationals.
“Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens. This includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement released on Sunday.
“Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 51 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences,” it added.
The White House accused “Iran’s proxy militias” of continuing attacks on US troops in the Middle East and said that Iranian officials “threaten to carry out terror operations inside the United States and elsewhere around the world.”
The statement came after Iran on Saturday announced a string of new sanctions on US officials accusing them of playing a role in the assassination of the country’s top general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.
The blacklisted US citizens include Donald Trump and officials such as Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and central command chief Kenneth McKenzie.
Nikki Haley, who served as the US’s envoy to the UN, and other Pentagon officials were blacklisted as well.
This was done “for the role they played in the terrorist act of the United States” against Soleimani “in glorification of terrorism and in violating the fundamental human rights,” Iran’s foreign ministry had said in a statement.
“As Americans, we have our disagreements on politics. We have our disagreements on Iran policy. But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations. We are united in the defence of our people,” Mr Sullivan said in the statement.
“We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran,” he added.
Ms Haley reacted to news of the sanction against her in a tweet. “Looks like I’ll have to cancel my relaxing getaway to Iran…” she said.
The tensions between Washington and Tehran had become increasingly strained ever since Mr Trump had thrown out the US-Iran nuclear deal after he had been elected.
Later, when Iran’s top general was killed, Mr Trump had called his assassination the end of a “reign of terror”.
Iran’s foreign ministry, on 29 December, tweeted a video that paid tribute to the major general, attacked Mr Trump and called the assassination “state terrorism”.
“Assassination of Iranian General #Qassem_Soleimani by direct order of the president of the United States, is a clear example of state terrorism. The Islamic Republic of Iran will bring its orchestrators and perpetrators to justice,” the tweet said.
Relations between the two countries have remained strained on the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death even as back-channel talks in Vienna are being held between the US and other countries to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — the countries involved in the 2015 nuclear deal — are seeking to revive the accord which pushed to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.