The US and its allies will defend itself and its citizens against any attacks carried out by Iran, the White House said on Sunday, a day after Tehran sanctioned 52 Americans over the 2020 killing of General Qassem Soleimani.
“Make no mistake: the US will protect and defend its citizens. This includes those serving the US now and those who formerly served. As Americans, we have our disagreements on politics. We have our disagreements on Iran policy. But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
He added: “We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran. Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 52 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences.”
The sanctioned list includes former and active US officials, both diplomatic and military, including US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
The Iranian regime’s sanctions are likely symbolic in nature as they simply allow the government to seize the assets of any of those sanctioned so long as those assets are in Iran.
And the Iranian regime’s announcement coincided with two-year anniversary of the US assassination of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, who was killed in a drone strike in Iraq on January 3, 2020, along with Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The sanctions announcement also comes at a sensitive time as tensions are high over whether or not the Vienna talks to revive abandoned 2015 nuclear deal would succeed.
The US has long been saying that if diplomacy failed with Iran, it was willing to turn to “plan B”, without specifying details.