Iran of course is angry the United States declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp a terror organization. Well, it is. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is making the media rounds and he is throwing out words like war, military intervention and conflict. Reinforcing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s stance, Zarif warned: “If the United States takes the crazy measure of trying to prevent us from doing that, then it should be prepared for the consequences.” He did not give specifics.

Kerry, Zarif named candidates for 2016 Nobel Peace Prize

Zarif is even making noise about prisoner swaps as this shows some desperation including blocking the Strait of Hormuz from maritime oil tanker traffic. Stop the oil sanctions and we can pursue a prisoner swap..hummm. Zarif has also suggested possible cooperation with the United States to bring stability to Iraq and Afghanistan, a priority for both Tehran and Washington, but did not mention Syria.

US Central Command Chief General Kenneth McKenzie said on Saturday that the United States would deploy the necessary resources to counter any dangerous actions by Iran, Sky News Arabia reported.

“We’re gonna continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran,” McKenzie, on an official visit to the Gulf region, was quoted as saying by Sky News Arabia.

“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous,” he said, according to a transcript released by the Abu Dhabi-based channel.

He said: “We will be able to respond effectively.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration last year withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.

Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Washington on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran oil exports.

McKenzie also said a reduction of US troops in Syria would be done cautiously.

“On the long term, we’re gonna reduce our forces in Syria, we recognize that, that’s the guidance in which we are operating.”

“That will be something that we will look at very carefully as we go forward,” the general said.

President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of US troops Syria in December after he said they had defeated ISIS extremist group in Syria.

In February, a senior administration official said the United States will leave about 400 US troops split between two different regions of Syria.

McKenzie also said he was confident that the US is going to have “a long term presence in Iraq, focused on the counter-terror mission.”

Denise Simon