The administration of US President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that it will continued to “work with friends and partners to counter Iran’s malign influence.”
It made its declaration in wake of its condemnation of the website of Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for carrying the image of a golfer resembling former President Donald Trump apparently being targeted by a drone alongside a threat of revenge over last year’s killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone attack.
The image first appeared on a Persian-language Twitter feed that carried a link to Khamenei’s website. Twitter took down that feed on Friday, saying it was fake.
Underneath the website picture were remarks by Khamenei in December ahead of the first anniversary this month of the killing of military commander General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, which was ordered by Trump.
“Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time,” said the comments on top of the image, which showed the shadow of a drone looming over the lone golfer. Trump, who regularly plays golf, was not named.
US-Iran tensions grew rapidly after 2018, when Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.
Tehran retaliated for Soleimani’s killing with missile strikes against US targets in Iraq but the two sides backed away from further confrontation.
High tension and risk of war appeared to subside with the end of Trump’s term. His successor Biden, sworn in on Wednesday, has said Washington seeks to lengthen and strengthen the nuclear constraints on Iran through diplomacy.
Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the Biden White House National Security Council, said “these kinds of threats from Iran are unacceptable.”
“We strongly condemn this provocative action. We will continue to work with our friends and partners to counter Iran’s malign influence,” she said in response to a request for comment.
The top Republican on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, earlier urged the Biden administration “to respond quickly and forcefully to this provocative threat against a former president” and called on Twitter to immediately and permanently suspend Khamenei’s account.
An official close to Khamenei’s inner circle said: “The aim (of the tweet) was to remind the gambler (Trump) that leaving office does not mean he will be safe and the assassination of our martyr Soleimani will be forgotten.”
“And now, American troops cannot protect him,” the official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters without elaborating.
Earlier this month, Twitter removed a tweet by Khamenei in which he said US- and British-made vaccines were unreliable and may be intended to “contaminate other nations” for violating its rules against misinformation.
Exiled rights activists renewed calls for Twitter to ban Khamenei. “I hope the world can see how they (Iranian officials) can use social media to promote violence,” US-based activist Massih Alinejad told Reuters.
Cooperation in Gulf
Amid these provocations, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday Tehran may cooperate with the United States on oil and security in the Gulf, but not on Israel.
“In my personal opinion, we should define our relationship with the United States: To tell the US that ‘we will not cooperate with you on the issue of Israel and we will disagree with you,’” he said in an interview with the reformist Etmad newspaper.
Iran, he said, “will not allow you to interfere in its internal affairs, but we have no problem working with you on the question of oil. We have no problem with ensuring the security of the Gulf, though we believe that foreign presence in the Gulf causes insecurity and you should not be there.”