Iran’s ambassador to the UK has used an exclusive interview with Sky News to issue a stark warning about the prospect of war in the Middle East.
Don’t test us was the message from Hamid Baeidinejad in the wake of escalating sabre-rattling from Donald Trump’s administration.
With America threatening to send 120,000 troops to the region, the ambassador broke his silence to spell out his country’s readiness for war.
While we have renounced any escalation in the region, I would assure you that Iranian armed forces are fully ready for any eventuality in the region, so they should not try to test the determination of Iran to confront any escalation in the region, he said.
In contrast to their US counterparts, Iranian diplomats seldom give interviews.
The fact that Mr Baeidinejad has done so now speaks volumes.
His government will be worried by both the increasing belligerence of Mr Trump’s administration and the Europeans’ failure to keep their side of the nuclear bargain.
Mr Baeidinejad is one of his country’s most seasoned diplomats.
He was one of the key Iranian negotiators in the nuclear talks. He will have chosen his words carefully, making his warning all the more striking.
His comments come the day after President Trump warned Iran that if they do anything, they will suffer greatly.
But the Iranian ambassador told Sky News his government did not believe Mr Trump was serious about threatening war and was not worried by his comments.
I think part of this is theatrical manoeuvres by the US, he said.
Our analysis is they, [or] at least President Trump, doesn’t want to engage in military confrontation with Iran because of how costly it will be for the US and for the region.
He was speaking the day after Iran was blamed by some for mysterious sabotage attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf – and on the day of reported drone attacks on a Saudi oil pipeline.
But the ambassador told Sky News he believed his country was being wrongly framed for the attacks and not for the first time.
We totally reject this, he said.
It is very suspicious to us and we hope an international fact finding mission could really find the reasons for these sabotages which are really suspicious to us.
The ambassador was speaking a few days after his government laid down the gauntlet to European nations, including the UK, over the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
The US leader walked out on the deal a year ago and has since tried its hardest to punish countries and companies that trade with Iran.
Tehran believes the Europeans could do more to help Iran continue trading, and has given them 60 days to do so.
If they fail to do so it says it could start enriching uranium again.
Ambassador Baeidinejad says Europe must do more to stand up to the Trump administration.
He said: Iran has been implementing all its obligations, but the other sides have not been implementing their obligations and that’s a situation that cannot continue in this manner.
So Iran wanted to give a very important signal that things should be rectified and should be redressed.
Relations between the UK and Iran have been complicated even further by another espionage case brought by Iranian authorities.
An Iranian woman called Aras Amiri was sentenced to 10 years for spying for Britain on Monday, in addition to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a British-Iranian mother still being held.
The ambassador said he was waiting for more details about the latest case, but stood by his country’s prosecution of suspected spies.
If anyone contravenes the law or is a relationship with the secret services or intelligence services, they should expect to face the law, he said.