Iran threatens ‘crushing’ retaliation on US after Donald Trump called for military strike

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The US President is understood to have spoken to his advisers over the possibility of launching strikes against Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant – located around 150 miles south of Tehran. The 100,000 square-mile site runs eight metres underground and is Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility.

The threat of action in Washington reported in the New York Times, comes just days after a watchdog found Iran had stockpiled 12 times the amount of uranium permitted under the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal.

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei has since issued a stern warning to the US.

Speaking on Tuesday, he said: “We have said it before, and repeat it now, that any action against Iranian people will face a crushing response.”

Just 24 hours earlier, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard air forces, said plans to take revenge on the US was “definite”.

Some officials in Washington fear Mr Trump is attempting to reignite tensions with Iran following his election defeat to Joe Biden.

Relations between the two sides have been on the edge ever since the US President pulled out of the Iran Nuclear deal in 2018 – which granted Tehran sanction relief in return for curbing its nuclear programme.

Iran and the US were also on the brink of a war in January following the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

One Washington-based official said: “It has always been one of our fears that during the transition time… that one party could do something stupid.”

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and France’s foreign minister Jean- Yves Le Drian on Monday and reiterated the US would continue to pile the pressure on Iran.

He said: “We’ve made sure that they have as few dollars and resources as possible to build their nuclear programme.

“We continue to push. In the coming weeks, there is more work to do to reduce their ability to torment the Middle East.”

Last week, research by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium has now reached 2.4 tonnes (2442kg).

Under the terms of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, Tehran is limited to 202kg.

The watchdog also said Iran had violated purity levels of enriched uranium with 4.5 percent recorded – above the 3.67 percent limit.

Iran has defended its nuclear programme and insisted it is there to maintain peace in the region – an explanation rejected by the IAEA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has opened the door for peace talks with Mr Biden and said Iran would fully implement its 2015 nuclear deal if US President-elect lifts economic sanctions.

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Mr Biden has previously said a return to Iran nuclear deal would be “a starting point for follow-on negotiations”

Mr Zarif said: “If Mr Biden is willing to fulfil US commitments, we too can immediately return to our full commitments in the accord and negotiations are possible within the framework.”

He added: “We are ready to discuss how the United States can re-enter the accord.

“The situation will improve in the next few months. Biden can lift all sanctions with three executive orders.”

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