Trump says not seeking war with Iran
Zarif: New US sanctions target Iranians' access to food, medicine
Any strike on Iran will result in "an all-out war” and that any country that does so will become the "main battlefield", Iranian officials warned Saturday after the United States ordered reinforcements to the Persian Gulf following attacks on Saudi oil installations.
Tensions escalated between Iran and the United States after last weekend's attacks on Saudi energy giant Aramco's Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oilfield halved the kingdom's oil output.
Washington approved the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia at "the kingdom's request," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, noting the forces would be "defensive in nature" and focused on air and missile defense.
But the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Commander Major General Hossein Salami said Iran was "ready for any type of scenario".
"Whoever wants their land to become the main battlefield, go ahead," he told a news conference in Tehran.
"We will never allow any war to encroach upon Iran's territory.”
He added, "If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them."
"We hope that they don't make a strategic mistake," he said, listing past US military "adventures" against Iran.
Salami added that Iran does not want to start a conflict, but appeared to warn the US and Saudi Arabia that Iran is prepared.
"We won't stop until the destruction of any aggressor. And we will not leave any secure spot. Do not miscalculate and do not make a mistake.
“Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited… We will pursue any aggressor.”
Salami was speaking at Tehran's Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Museum during the unveiling of an exhibition of US and other drones captured in Iran’s territory.
It featured a badly damaged drone with US military markings said to be an RQ-4 Global Hawk that Iran downed in June, as well as an RQ-170 Sentinel captured in 2011 and still intact.
The IRGC also displayed the domestically manufactured Khordad 3 air defense battery that was used to shoot down the Global Hawk.
"What are your drones doing in our airspace? We will shoot them down, shoot anything that encroaches on our airspace," said Salami, noting Iran had defeated "America's technological dominance" in air defense and drone manufacture.
"Sometimes they talk of military options," Salami said, apparently referring to the Americans.
Yet he warned that "a limited aggression will not remain limited" as Iran was determined to respond and would "not rest until the aggressor's collapse."
His remarks came only days after strikes on Saudi oil facilities claimed by Yemen's Houthis, but the US says it has concluded the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and amounted to "an act of war".
Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in an almost five-year war across its southern border in Yemen, has said Iran "unquestionably sponsored" the attacks.
The kingdom says the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian-made, but it stopped short of directly blaming its regional rival.
Iran has denied involvement in the Sept. 14 attack. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in New York for the UN meetings, has warned that any retaliatory strike on Iran by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in "an all-out war."
Zarif said in a tweet that Saudi Arabia does not believe its own allegations that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil sites.
"It is clear that even the Saudis themselves don't believe the fiction of Iranian involvement," Zarif said, pointing to what he described as a Saudi retaliatory attack on Houthi forces in southwestern Yemen.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah warned Saudi Arabia on Friday against betting on a war against Iran because it would destroy the kingdom and said Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates should halt the conflict in Yemen to protect themselves.
“Don’t bet on a war against Iran because they will destroy you,” Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Noting that the attack had initially halved Saudi oil output, he added, “Your house is made of glass and your economy is made of glass. Like the glass cities in the UAE.”
US ups sanctions
US President Donald Trump signaled on Friday that he was not inclined to authorize an immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attacks on the Saudi oil industry, saying he believes showing restraint "shows far more strength" and he wants to avoid an all-out war.
Trump said separately Friday that America "just sanctioned” the Central Bank of Iran.
He called the measures the toughest America has ever imposed on another country.
"These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country."
"The easiest thing I could do (is) knock out 15 different major things in Iran," Trump said.
"I could do it right here in front of you. And that would be it. And then you would have a nice, big story to report," he said.
"Much easier to do it the other way. It's much easier."
Washington has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran since unilaterally pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.
It already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran's Central Bank, but the US Treasury said Friday's designation was over the regulator's work in funding "terrorism."
The US Treasury Department said the Central Bank of Iran had provided "billions of dollars" to two groups blacklisted by the United States.
The United States also imposed sanctions on the National Development Fund of Iran, the country's sovereign wealth fund and Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran's Defense Ministry.
Zarif said the new sanctions meant the United States was "trying to block the Iranian people's access to food and medicine."
“This is dangerous and unacceptable.”
It showed the US was in "despair" and that "the maximum pressure policy has reached its end," he said from New York.
“This is a sign of US desperation ... When they repeatedly sanction the same institution, this means their attempt at bringing the Iranian nation to its knees under ‘maximum pressure’ has failed,” Zarif said.
Zarif said he would on Wednesday meet foreign ministers of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, which was agreed with Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia as well as the United States.
“As we have said before, the United States can only attend if it returns to the (nuclear accord) ... and ends its economic war against Iran,” Zarif said.
AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.