Iran, US trade tweets as talk of war dies down

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Donald Trump’s tweets in a sign that both sides want to reduce tension.

al-monitor Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina.

May 20, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on May 20 to US President Donald Trump’s tweet about the likelihood of military conflict with Iran. Trump tweeted on May 19, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” On May 17, Trump had also tweeted, “With all the fake and made up news out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on.”

With the announcement by national security adviser John Bolton that the United States was sending an aircraft carrier strike group into the Persian Gulf in response to specific Iranian threats, tensions were severely heightened last week and experts warned of a military conflict. While many analysts now believe the intelligence was oversold by Bolton and Iran was likely taking defensive measures against what they believed was aggressive US military actions, tensions have since died down.

Zarif’s tweet, while in response to Trump, also offered an olive branch. Referring to the “B-team” of Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed, Zarif tweeted, “Goaded by the B-team, [Trump] hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis and other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors [are] all gone. Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won’t 'end Iran.' #NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect — it works!”

Zarif’s hashtag #NeverThreatenanIranian comes from a viral moment during the nuclear negotiations between 2013-15 when the foreign minister had a heated exchange with then Secretary of State John Kerry. Many Iranians on Twitter translated the English-language tweet into Persian but kept the hashtag in English. The line has become one of the foreign minister’s more popular and viral ones on Persian and Iranian social media pages.

The coverage of the tweets in Iranian media suggests that tensions have died down for now. In response to Trump’s tweet, hard-line Jahan news wrote as their headline, “The American President has put the minds of cowards at ease.” The reference to “cowards” in the headline was, according to the article, “Reformists and Western-oriented” Iranians who feared a war between the United States and Iran.

In other news, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization has reportedly gone through a structural change. Jahan, which is believed to be close to the country’s security agencies, wrote about the changes. The IRGC Intelligence Organization has been instrumental in suppressing domestic dissent, particularly since the contested 2009 presidential elections.

One of the changes, according to the article, is that given the range of threats Iran is facing, the organization would now operate outside of Iran’s borders in the region and beyond. The article wrote that “a part of the Strategic Information Directorate” of the IRGC would be merging with the IRGC Intelligence Organization, adding this would not necessarily be a “new institution” but rather a “new professional era in the intelligence institution of the IRGC.” The article said “the new structure of the IRGC intelligence would focus specifically on the United States.”

Iranian media had previously written that Hossein Taeb would continue to head the IRGC Intelligence Organization. They also wrote that the deputy information director under the IRGC would merge with the IRGC Intelligence Organization, but this news was quickly deleted. According to BBC Persian, Taeb was announced as the “director” of the IRGC Intelligence Organization and not the “head of the organization,” creating doubts on whether a new entity had been created.

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