Iran claims Israeli agents ‘plotting attacks’ on US in Iraq to spark conflict

FM Zarif warns Trump to avoid Jerusalem’s ‘trap,’ says it will ‘backfire badly’ on Israeli ‘BFFs,’ amid heightened regional tensions between Tehran and US and Israeli allies

The Times of Israel

Media – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed Saturday that Israeli agents were planning to attack American targets in order to instigate an aggressive US reaction against Iran and spark armed conflict, warning President Donald Trump to avoid such a “trap.”

And he warned that any attack against the Islamic Republic by the US would “backfire badly” on Washington’s “BFFs” (an initialism for “best friends forever”), in an apparent reference to the Jewish state.

“New intelligence from Iraq indicate (sic) that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans — putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli,” Zarif tweeted.

“Be careful of a trap, [Trump]. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs.

The US is Israel’s top global ally, and Jerusalem and Washington cooperate closely in the Middle East in general and on the threat posed by Iran in particular, sharing intelligence and working together to counter Tehran militarily — making Zarif’s claims highly dubious.

US officials have expressed concern that Iran may be planning attacks against US-allied targets in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region. In recent weeks the US military has taken a range of steps designed to deter Iran, while publicly emphasizing that it is not planning, and has not been instructed, to take unprovoked action against Iran.

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran against any attack, and the US has flown strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf in a show of force meant to deter Iran from attacking American or allied targets in the Middle East.

A US nuclear submarine crossed the Strait of Hormuz on Monday.

Tensions in the Middle East have heated in recent weeks as Israel and the US have traded threats with Iran ahead of the 1-year anniversary of the US airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Iranian officials have issued a stream of threats against the US as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death approaches. The general was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on January 3 of last year.

A Friday report on Kan News said the Israeli military was preparing for the possibility of a strike by Iran-backed militias based in Iraq or Yemen.

Possible attacks being prepared for include missile and drone strikes from Iraqi militias and Houthi groups in Yemen, the report said.

Iran has also threatened to attack Israel since the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in late November, in a raid blamed on the Jewish state.

Further ratcheting up tensions, the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday that Iran intends to produce uranium enriched up to 20 percent purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord and a short jump from weapons-grade material.

The Friday report from Kan echoed comments made last week by IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, who told a Saudi news outlet that Israel was not aware of any specific plans by Iran to attack the Jewish state, but that Iranian forces could carry out an attack from Iraq or Yemen.

He said Israel had information indicating Iran was developing unmanned aerial vehicles and “smart missiles” in Iraq and Yemen, and that the weapons could have the ability to strike Israel.

Zilberman said Israel was tracking Iranian movements around the region, and that Israeli submarines were quietly “sailing everywhere.” His interview came after an Israeli submarine reportedly openly crossed the Suez Canal in a show of force directed at Iran.

A day after the interview was published, an unnamed Iranian official told Al Jazeera that “Tehran’s response to any attack on national security will be strong and wide.”

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