Iran, US heat up war of words on Iraq

Middle East Desk

TEHRAN: Iran said on Thursday that it “only acts in self-defence” after President Donald Trump warned it against attacks on United States troops in Iraq, as a new war of words heated up despite the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions between the arch-foes flared in Iraq where the US deployed Patriot air defence missiles prompting neighbouring Iran to warn of consequences and demand a US withdrawal.
Both countries have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the United States and more than 3,000 in Iran. “Unlike the US which surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates Iran only acts in self-defence,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Don’t be misled by usual warmongers, AGAIN,” he said, addressing US President Donald Trump, “Iran starts no wars but teaches lessons to those who do,” he added.
Trump had warned Iran on Wednesday that it would pay a “heavy price” in the event of further attacks on US troops. He tweeted that “upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq.” In response, Zarif wrote on Twitter that “Iran has FRIENDS: No one can have MILLIONS of ‘proxies’”
Iran responded angrily to the US Patriot deployment warning that Washington risked leading the Middle East to disaster in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran and the US are in a tense battle for influence in Iraq, where Tehran has powerful allies and Washington has close ties to the government. Bases in Iraq housing US troops and foreign embassies, particularly the American mission, have been targeted in more than two dozen rocket attacks since October that Washington has blamed on Iran-backed armed groups. Tensions have risen sharply since Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions.