JERUSALEM, Israel – The White House says Iran will face “severe consequences” if it attacks any US citizens after the Islamic Republic announced sanctions against dozens of Americans.
“Yesterday, Iran purported to impose sanctions on 51 Americans. They do so as Iran’s proxy militias continue to attack American troops in the Middle East, and as Iranian officials threaten to carry out terror operations inside the United States and elsewhere around the world,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday.
“Make no mistake: the United States of America will protect and defend its citizens. This includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served,” the statement continued.
On Saturday, Iran sanctioned 51 Americans over the 2020 killing of top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani commanded Iran’s Quds Force, the overseas division of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard. He was the architect of Iran's operations throughout the region and had been sanctioned by the US and the UN for supporting terrorism. The sanctions will allow Iran to seize any assets those individuals may have in Iran, but as Reuters noted, the move is largely symbolic.
Many of those sanctioned are US military officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley and former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
Last year, Iran imposed sanctions on former President Donald Trump and other senior officials.
But the Iranian regime is now indicating that it's seeking violent revenge against members of the Trump administration, and it is essentially calling on assassins within the U.S. to carry out its wishes.
Commander Esmail Qaani of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said, "We provide the ground for revenge against the Americans from inside their homes. Wherever we do not need to be present, we provide the ground for revenge against the Americans from inside their homes."
Qaani continued, "We deal with the enemies and the crime of Commander Soleimani's assassination with our own tactics. Our behavior and style and context are different from the style and context and behavior of the enemy. They did what they did, it's far less expensive for the United States than for the children of the Resistance Front, who know no borders, to go and take revenge on themselves. This revenge has begun."
The White House warned that America would work with its allies in the Middle East to “deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran.”
“Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 51 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences,” Sullivan said.
Victoria Coates is one of the 51 individuals on the sanctions list and served as deputy national security advisor in the Trump administration. She warns that Iran has attempted attacks on US soil before.
“They have expressed the intent to do violence against people in the United States. You'd go back to the 2011…[the] plot against the then Saudi ambassador to the United States…Obviously, they are willing to do that,” said Coates, adding that Sullivan’s statement means the White House considers “any kind of threat, be it economic or otherwise, a threat against former administration officials.”
So far, Iran has not been successful on US soil, but Coates says it only has to be successful only once. She says it serves as a wake-up call to the Biden administration.
“I would like them to see the Iranian regime for what it is... We had the attacks against our Saudi allies. We had attacks against our UAE allies...we've had endless attacks against our Israeli allies. This is what they do. And so, when you are attempting to negotiate with them, bear this in mind,” says Coates.
“The smiling face you see across the table from you is maybe not the real face of this regime. Look at their actions, not at their words or what they might be willing to say in Vienna,” she said, referring to the nuclear negotiations in Vienna between Iran and world powers.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was not bound by the outcome of the negotiations.
“Regarding the Vienna talks, nuclear talks - we are definitely concerned. It's important for me to say and to make it unequivocally clear - Israel is not a part of the agreements, Israel is not bound by what will be written in the agreements, if they are signed, and Israel will continue to maintain full freedom of action anywhere and at any time without restrictions,” said Bennett.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Congress, Yoram Ettinger, warns the US administration is misjudging the ayatollahs.
“They seem to believe that the Iranian leopard can be induced to change its spots,” he said. “The current administration in Washington assumes that terrorism, in general, is driven by despair, not by fanatic religious vision…but [is] sadly, divorced from reality.”