President Donald Trump blasted a tweet Saturday threatening Iran that the U.S. military is targeting 52 Iranian sites if Tehran decides to retaliate against the U.S. following the death of its revered commander in a U.S. airstrike Jan. 2.
“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters,” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Fears of new conflict rise after US kills Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in strike on Baghdad airport
“Don’t underestimate the hatred and vitriol that senior U.S. military officials with experience in Iraq have toward Qassem Soleimani."
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!,” Trump posted to Twitter.
Trump said the 52 sites targeted were an homage to the 52 hostages Iran held for 444 days when Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979.
Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, declined comment, deferring questions about the Tweet and whether cultural sites would be targeted to the White House.
Trump’s threat to Iran is the latest escalation between Tehran and the U.S. following a U.S. airstrike Jan 2 that killed One of Iran’s most revered and powerful military commanders, Qassem Soleimani.
The Quds Force commander has been among America’s top adversaries in recent years helping sow discontent and instability across the Middle East for years.
Coalition officials in Iraq said Saturday that the International Zone in Baghdad took indirect fire and rockets landed near Balad airbase. Saturdays rocket attack brings the total to 13 strikes against bases housing coalitions troops in Iraq over the last two months, according to coalition military spokesman Col. Myles Caggins III.
Iranian political and military leaders have threatened revenge for the death the Quds Force commander, who is considered a national hero in Iran.
A former U.S. defense official told Military Times that it’s hard to know how Iran may retaliate.
It's unclear who fired the rockets.
“It’s best to know which assets Iran has available, what these assets can do, and how much risk they’re willing to accept,” the official told Military Times.
Iran has an extensive network of proxy militia forces that could conducts attacks across the Middle East, and Tehran controls a conventional military to include ballistic missile, naval and cyber capabilities, the former defense official said.
“With a brief survey of what Iran has available, the question is how do they hit back without encouraging the US to adopt an all-out war posture?,” the official explained to Military Times.
Trump blamed Soleimani for the attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31 by an Iran-backed militia and their supports.
The U.S. beefed up security around the embassy as demonstrators descended upon the compound in the wake of deadly U.S. airstrikes on Dec. 29 that targeted an Iran-back militia suspected of launching rockets at coalition bases.
A brigade of paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne has been deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations as tensions with Iran continue to mount.
-Military Times managing editor Howard Altman contributed to this report.