Iran warned U.S. forces in Iraq on Wednesday that it would respond to any violation of Iranian airspace, a message analysts said seemed directed at the new U.S. president-elect more than neighbouring American troops.
The Iranian army statement, reported by state radio, followed a cross-border raid last month by U.S. forces into Syria, a move that was condemned by Damascus and Tehran.
But an Iranian politician said the timing suggested it was directed at Barack Obama, who won Tuesday’s U.S. vote, more than the U.S. military, and might reflect concern by hardliners in Iran who he said thrived on confrontation with Washington.
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Obama has said he would toughen sanctions on Iran but has also held out the possibility of direct talks to resolve rows, which include a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Recently it has been seen that American army helicopters were flying a small distance from Iraq’s border with Iran and, because of the closeness to the border, the danger of them violating Iran’s border is possible,” state radio reported.
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“Iran’s armed forces will respond to any violation,” radio said, citing a statement from Iran’s army headquarters.
Washington, which has not had diplomatic ties with Tehran since 1980, has accused Iran of funding, equipping and training militants in Iraq. Iran denies this and says insecurity is due to the presence of U.S. troops who should quit Iraq.
“This is a clear message to the American president-elect because radicals are not very happy that Obama has been elected,” said one Iranian politician, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.