Khamenei adviser: US attack on Iran could set off a 'full-fledged war'

Adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader warns US: A limited, tactical conflict can turn into a full-fledged war.

Elad Benari ,

Members of Iran's Basij militia
Members of Iran's Basij militia

An adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, who is a possible 2021 presidential candidate, on Thursday warned that any American attack on the Islamic Republic could set off a “full-fledged war” in the Middle East.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Hossein Dehghan struck a hard-line tone familiar to those in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in which he served in before becoming a defense minister under President Hassan Rouhani.

“We don’t welcome a crisis. We don’t welcome war. We are not after starting a war, but we are not after negotiations for the sake of negotiations either,” he told AP.

He stressed in the interview that any negotiations with the West could not include Iran’s ballistic missiles, which he described as a “deterrent” to Tehran’s adversaries.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not negotiate its defensive power ... with anybody under any circumstances,” he told AP. “Missiles are a symbol of the massive potential that is in our experts, young people and industrial centers.”

Dehghan further warned against any American military escalation in Trump’s final weeks in office saying, “A limited, tactical conflict can turn into a full-fledged war. Definitely, the United States, the region and the world cannot stand such a comprehensive crisis.”

The interview follows a New York Times report on Monday which said that US President Donald Trump asked senior advisers last week whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks.

The report said that a range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, warning him that such a move could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of his presidency.

In response to the report, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned on Tuesday that any US attack on Iran would face a “crushing” response.

The Trump administration has regularly enforced sanctions on Iran since 2018, when it withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and has ramped up the sanctions in recent weeks, after its efforts to extend a UN arms embargo on Iran did not succeed.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse Trump’s decision and rejoin the 2015 deal if Iran returns to compliance with it.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said this week Iran would fully implement the 2015 nuclear deal if Biden lifts the sanctions on Tehran.