Iran warns of ‘strong slap in the face’ as war games conclude

Iranian soldiers from the Revolutionary Guards march march during a military parade on Sept. 22, 2015.

By Meg Wagner

Don’t do ‘anything stupid’

Iran’s military warned its enemies today not to underestimate its power — and told their  leaders to brace for a “strong slap in the face” if they do.

The Wednesday warning from the Revolutionary Guards, an elite branch of Iran’s armed forces dedicated to protecting the nation’s Islamic system, came as the troops conducted training exercises with tanks, drones, and rockets. The statement added a straightforward verbal notice to the aggressive display of force.

“The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake,” said Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the top commander of the Guards’ ground forces, according to the military’s website, Sepahnews.

The warning came weeks after President Donald Trump’s administration had put Iran “on notice” following its Jan. 29 ballistic missile test.

Pakpour said the three days’ worth of exercises demonstrated that Iran can — and will — fight back if other nations “do anything stupid.”

“Everyone could see today what power we have on the ground,” he said, according to the Iranian news agency Tasnim. “The message of these exercises … for world arrogance is not to do anything stupid.”

Fighting and playing with fire

Iran’s January missile launch was its first President Trump had to deal with, coming just nine days after he took office, and many U.S. officials saw it as a test for the incoming administration.

In the wake of the launch, Trump promised he’d be tough on Iran, insisting that former president Barack Obama was too soft.

Obama brokered a 2015 deal with other world powers that eased economic sanctions on Iran, so long as Iran cut back on its nuclear program in return — an agreement widely condemned by Republicans, including Trump, who branded it “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

“Iran is playing with fire,” Trump tweeted on Feb. 3, four days after the launch. “They don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!”

Subsequently, the White House announced that it had put Iran “on notice” and levied new sanctions against 25 Iranian officials and entities involved in helping with the nuclear program.

Iran later rebuked the claims that it was “testing” the Trump administration.

“Iran’s missile test was not a message to the new U.S. government,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, adding that Iranian government officials already know Trump “quite well” from policy statements between the two nations.

Shredding the nuclear deal?

The Iranian commander’s Wednesday warning marks the latest jab in escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. As the relationship strains further, focus has turned to the 2015 nuclear deal — and Trump’s campaign promise to get rid of it.

Since taking office, Trump has been vague in his threats against Iran: While he’s tweeted tough words, he hasn’t renewed his promise to ditch the deal.

But Iranian officials have repeatedly cautioned against that possibility, even before Trump took office. In November, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that he wouldn’t allow Trump to “tear up” the deal.

And others insist that deleting such a deal isn’t even an option, since it involves more parties than just the U.S. and Iran (the 28 members of the European Union, plus China and Russia are also part of the agreement).

“It’s a multilateral deal and multilateral deals cannot be reopened for negotiations because it would open a Pandora’s box,” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, told NBC News on Sunday.

Still, Zarif cautioned  Trump against using divisive language when dealing with Iran.

“Threats do not work against Iran,” he said. “It would work much better if they decided to use the language of respect, the language of mutual interest.”