Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Tuesday during a press briefing that the United States was ready for a war if Iran continued to escalate tensions.
Iran’s Ali Ayatollah Khamenei vowed violent revenge after President Donald Trump ordered the successful elimination of Qassem Soleimani via targeted drone strike.
All friends—& enemies—know that Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation & definite victory awaits the fighters on this blessed path. The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals./4
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 3, 2020
However, Esper’s tone seemed undeterred by Khamenei’s threats and Iran’s increasingly hostile actions.
“Let me reiterate that the United States is not seeking a war with Iran,” Esper said,”but we are prepared to finish one.”
Although critics of Trump’s strike on the top Iranian general have claimed it was an “assassination” and thus an act of war, the Defense Secretary made it clear that the United States prefers a peaceful resolution.
“We are seeking a diplomatic solution but first this will require Iran to de-escalate,” Esper said. “It will require the regime to come to the table with the goal of preventing further bloodshed and it will require them to cease their malign activities throughout the region.”
It is clear the Trump’s administration expects, and is indeed preparing for, Iran to make significant reprisal.
“I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form, either through their proxies as they’ve been doing now for how many years and/or by their own hand, and so we take this one step at a time,” Esper predicted.”We’re prepared for any contingency.”
Although Iran has framed American actions as those of first aggression, it is Iran’s and Soleimani’s recorded history of violence and murder against Americans that was the purported basis for the drone strike. And Secretary Esper left open the possibility of even more action. “The architects of terror should know that we will not tolerate attacks against America’s people and interests and will exercise our right to self defense should that become necessary once again,” Esper said.
Addressing concerns about the safety of Americans, Esper said, “At this time our top priorities remain, first, the security of American personnel and our partners.” But Esper left no doubt the military was prepared to do what it does best, “And second, our readiness to respond to Iranian aggression.”