BEIRUT (Reuters) - A senior Iranian military commander poured scorn on U.S. threats to tighten sanctions on Tuesday, saying the Islamic Republic’s people would respond by punching U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the mouth.
Pompeo said on Monday Washington would impose new penalties if Tehran did not make sweeping changes, including dropping its nuclear program and pulling out of the Syrian civil war.
Two weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration has threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.
“The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them,” Ismail Kowsari, the deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran said, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency.
Limiting Iran’s missile capabilities was one of Pompeo’s main demands.
“Who are you and America to tell us to limit the range of ballistic missiles?” Kowsari said, according to ILNA. “History has shown that with the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America is the top criminal with regard to missiles,” he added.
Qassem Soleimani, the head of the branch of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations outside Iran’s borders, was singled out by Pompeo as a top troublemaker in the Middle East.
Kowsari said that the Iranian people back Soleimani.
“Soleimani is not a single person. The great people of Iran support him,” Kowsari said.
Separately, Iran’s government spokesman said that the plan outlined by Pompeo would exacerbate the public’s hostility to the United States.
“Do the Americans think that the silk glove that they’ve taken out and the iron hand that they’ve extended to the people, a hand that’s backed by Israel and the [Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization], will make Iranian people think that America wants democracy?” Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on Tuesday, according to state media.
The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) is an exiled Iranian armed opposition group which has called for the overthrow of the Iranian government for decades.
John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, has been a supporter of the MKO, which the Iranian government sees as a terrorist group.
Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Andrew Heavens