On Saturday, US President Donald Trump threatened Iran that United States is targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.
In a tweet defending Friday’s drone strike assassination of a top Iranian general in Iraq, Trump said 52 represents the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.
Trump said some of these sites are “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 took to Twitter after pro-Iran factions ramped up pressure on US installations across Iraq with missiles and warnings to Iraqi troops, part of an outburst of fury over the killing of Soleimani, described as the second most-powerful man in Iran.
The attack has prompted fears of a major conflagration in the Middle East.
The US president, who is holidaying in his private resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, was responding reportedly to intelligence Iranian ballistic missile units being in a heightened state of alert and presumably to a threat from a senior Iranian military leader who had said dozens of American facilities and bases were within the reach of Iranian forces, and Tel Aviv.
“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.,” he wrote in a string of tweets. The USA wants no more threats!” Trump was referring to the 52 American diplomats and citizens who had been held hostage for 444 days at the US mission in Tehran from November 1979 to January 1981 by Iranian students in support of the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
The United States killed General Soleimani in a drone strike outside the international airport in Baghdad on Friday, along with the leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia and five other men. He was planning “imminent and sinister” attacks on Americans and their military facilities, the US has said.
Iranians, their allies and their proxies have responded with expected outrage and have vowed to avenge the assassination, with President Hassan Rouhani assuring the general’s relatives “everyone” will step up to it. An Iranian military commander, Brigadier General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, is reported to have said, Saturday, “Thirty-five vital American positions in the region are within the reach of the Islamic Republic, and Tel Aviv. The Strait of Hormuz is a vital thoroughfare for the West, and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf.”
US officials have said they are prepared for retaliatory strikes and that was a risk factored into the decision to kill Soleimani and have argued that the cost of not doing anything would have been far higher “While there’s always a risk in taking decisive action, there’s a greater risk in not taking that action,” National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters Friday.