Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned of an “all-out war” if the United States or Saudi Arabia mounted an attack against his country.
Speaking on CNN on Thursday local time, Mr Zarif said Iran would not blink to defend its territory.
Asked what would be the consequence of a US or Saudi strike, Mr Zarif bluntly said: “An all-out war.”
“I’m making a very serious statement that we don’t want war. We don’t want to engage in a military confrontation,” he said. “We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful.
Iran has denied it was responsible for a series of devastating drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities on September 14, triggering the biggest jump in global oil prices in almost 30 years.
He added that a military response based on “deception” about the weekend attacks would cause “a lot of casualties”.
“But we won’t blink to defend our territory,” he said.
A Saudi-led coalition told reporters in Riyadh on Wednesday that debris from 25 drones found at the targets were Iranian-made and the launch site for the attacks was most likely from northern Iran.
US President Donald Trump tweeted that the US was “locked and loaded” but was waiting for Saudi Arabia’s rulers to decide on a path forward. By Wednesday, he had struck a cautious note, saying there were other options besides war with Iran and immediately ordered more sanctions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the attack as an “act of war.”
However, amid the outbreak of aggressive language between the US and Iran, there’s also been a signal of both sides wanting to avoid a confrontation.
A spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Thursday that Mr Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani received US visas to attend next week’s annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where the drone attacks would be a major focus.
Mr Pompeo, who was in the United Arab Emirates, dismissed Mr Zarif’s remarks, saying: “I was here (doing) active diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war to fight to the last American.”
Mr Pompeo said he hoped Iran would choose a path toward peace, but he remained doubtful.
He described “an enormous consensus in the region” that Iran carried out the attack.
“There are still those today who think, ‘Boy, if we just give Iran just a little bit more money they’ll become a peaceful nation,”‘ he said. “We can see that that does not work.”
Mr Zarif told CNN Iran was prepared to open up discussions with its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but has rejected US talks unless it eased sanctions under the 2015 nuclear deal.
The US accusations were part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran to force it to renegotiate the deal with world powers, which Mr Trump exited last year, reimposing sanctions to choke off Iran’s oil exports.