As President Trump prepares to move ahead with plans to slap new sanctions on Iran - which he promised over the weekend - the Iranians are doubling down on their own threatening language, warning that their armed forces wouldn't hesitate to shoot down more US surveillance drones if Washington continues to press them.
Late last week, the Trump administration reportedly called off a planned military strike after Iranian forces shot down the drone, which was worth more than $100 million, and furthermore warned that they could have shot down an American spy plane carrying dozens of people (according to the Iranians) but they chose not to (an indication of their benevolence before the Trump administration).
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
But even as Washington continues to lather its belligerent rhetoric with offers to engage with Tehran, the Iranians remain extremely wary, and have followed up mostly with threats of their own, according to the AP, Iran’s naval commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, warned Washington that Tehran is capable of shooting down other American spy drones that drift into Iranian airspace (Washington contends that the drone was flying over international waters when it was shot down).
"We confidently say that the crushing response can always be repeated, and the enemy knows it," Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency during a meeting with a group of defense officials.
Meanwhile, Tehran has rebutted reports that Washington launched a cyberattack against Iran late last week by warning that the attack wasn't successful. In a number that sounds slightly exaggerated, Iran's minister for information said Iran 'neutralized' 33 million attacks with its firewall last year.
"They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack," Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, said on Twitter.
"Media asked if the claimed cyber attacks against Iran are true," he said. "Last year we neutralized 33 million attacks with the (national) firewall."
As tensions with the Iranians flared, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia over the weekend. During a meeting with King Salman in Jeddah on Monday, Pompeo said he wanted to build a "global coalition" to push back against Tehran, according to Reuters.
"We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror," Pompeo said about Iran.
But even as Pompeo kept up the belligerent train of remarks, he emphasized that Washington is still open to talks with Tehran, though Tehran has indicated that it won't abandon plans to start stockpiling enriched uranium again until the US backs off on its crude-oil export ban.
"They know precisely how to find us," Pompeo said.
Next, the secretary of state will travel to Abu Dhabi for a similar round of meetings.