With the US officially warning Iran twice over the past 24 hours in the harshest possible terms yet, when first national security advisor Michael Flynn, and then this morning Trump himself, said Iran has been "put on notice" for "destabilizing activity" after it fired a ballistic missile in defiance of UN resolutions, on Thursday a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by Reuters as saying the country would not yield to "useless" U.S. threats from "an inexperienced person" over its ballistic missile program.
As a reminder, Iran said on Wednesday confirmed it had tested a new ballistic missile but said it did not breach a nuclear deal reached with six major powers in 2015 or a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the accord. A U.S. official had said earlier that Iran test-launched the medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday and it exploded after traveling 630 miles (1,010 km). Iran said it was a successful launch.
The IRGC maintains an arsenal of dozens of short and medium-range ballistic missiles - the largest in the Middle East, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran ... the American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless," Ali Akbar Velayati said, without identifying any U.S. official specifically in his comments.
"Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself," he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. Khamenei is the country's most powerful figure.
Finally, Iran promised to "vigorously" continue its missile activity and that it will conduct more ballistic missile tests in the future.
A series of tests conducted by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in 2016 caused international concern, with some powers saying any launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles would violate U.N. Security Council resolution 2231.
Under the nuclear agreement, seen by many as Obama's landmark foreign policy deal, most U.N. sanctions were lifted a year ago. But Iran is still subject to an U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the deal. Trump has frequently criticized the Iran nuclear deal, which restricts Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions, calling the agreement weak and ineffective. He tweeted on Thursday that Iran "should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them".
Iran's Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday: "The missile test on Sunday was successful ... the test was not a violation of a nuclear deal with world powers or any U.N. resolution."
Additionally, on Thursday German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran had tested a home-made cruise missile called "Sumar" that is capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Tasnim news agency two years ago published pictures of the Sumar missile, reporting that it was successfully test-fired. While Iran says its missile program is aimed at displaying the country's "deterrent power and its ability to confront any threat", some IRGC commanders have said that Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles were designed to be able to hit Israel.
Meanwhile, as the drums of embargo (and/or war) beat louder again, global crude prices rose on Thursday following the repeat US warnings to Iran. Major crude benchmarks gained over a dollar, with Brent blend trading at $57.18 per barrel, showing the best performance since January 6. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was seen at $54.13 per barrel, which is also the highest price since the first week of the year. "As soon as those comments hit the wires, you saw a bit of a rally in crude oil," John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital told CNBC.
Of course, it is possible that oil merely responded to the latest weakness in the dollar, however should Trump indeed escalate and terminate Obama's nuclear deal, the threat of some 1 million barrels of Iran oil getting pulled from the market will likely have a dramatic impact on oil, not to mention gasoline at the pump, and thus consumer inflation.