Iran cautioned Saturday that it will “firmly” respond to any aggression or threat by the U.S., a warning that comes after President Trump aborted a military attack while a U.S. cyber team carried out a retaliatory digital strike against the regime.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi reiterated the regime’s position that it will confront any threats by the U.S. over the shooting down of an unmanned U.S. Navy drone by the Islamic Republic.
“Regardless of any decision they (U.S. officials) make... we will not allow any of Iran’s borders to be violated. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” he said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The comment comes in the wake of heightened tensions in the region that put Washington and Tehran on the brink of a war.
Trump said Friday that he halted the strike just 10 minutes prior because of the projected casualty loss, saying that it wasn't a "proportionate" response to Iran previously shooting down an American military drone.
“10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not … proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” he wrote in a tweet, but added that the U.S. was “cocked & loaded to retaliate.”
On Saturday, Trump further explained his decision and rejected claims that he is a "dove" on foreign policy
"Everybody was saying I’m a warmonger and now they say I’m a dove," he told reporters outside the White House. "And I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth. I’m a man with common sense, and that’s what we need in this country is common sense.”
He also reached out with something of an olive branch: "If Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, a prosperous nation again -- we'll call it “Make Iran Great Again” -- that's OK with me."
"But they're never going to do it if they think in five or six years they're going to have a nuclear weapon," he warned.
Iran claimed the U.S. drone on Thursday was over Iranian airspace when it was shot down – but American officials stated unequivocally the incident occurred in international airspace.
State Department officials also decried “pure Iranian propaganda” reports – based solely on the Iranians’ comments – that claim Trump warned Tehran in a message through Oman that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent,
“Reports that a message was passed last night to the Iranians via an Omani back channel are completely false. These reports are pure Iranian propaganda. #Iran needs to meet our diplomacy with diplomacy,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus wrote in a tweet.
But while the military air strike was called off, U.S. Cyber Command launched a digital strike against an Iranian spy group on Thursday, Yahoo News reported.
The spy group is close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a terrorist-designated entity, and reportedly supported the limpet mine attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Additional details about the digital response weren’t available, though private American cyber groups have said that Iranian state-sponsored hackers are targeting U.S. organizations, adding Iran’s response against the U.S. will likely be executed in cyberspace.
“The question is whether or not this is intelligence collection associated with the conflict, or if it is something more aggressive, like laying the groundwork for a destructive or disruptive attack,” John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at cybersecurity company FireEye Inc., told the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S.-Iran confrontation has been boiling since Trump backed out of the Obama-era nuclear deal in May 2018.
But the tensions reached a fever pitch in recent weeks after two oil tankers were attacked, supposedly by the Iranian forces as the regime flexes its muscles over tough sanctions that caused its currency to drop by about 60 percent in 12 months while food and drug prices are up 40 and 60 percent, respectively.
Iran is currently also seeking to renegotiate the nuclear deal with European countries, arguing that the deal must be improved amid U.S. sanctions or the regime will begin enriching uranium up to 20 percent – just a step below weapons-grade level.