DUBAI — Iran is not seeking war, the leader of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards said Sunday.
"The difference between us and them is that they are afraid of war and don't have the will for it," Major General Hossein Salami said, as quoted by local news agency Fars.
On Saturday the Revolutionary Guard general, known for his inflammatory rhetoric, mocked the U.S. political system and made a jab related to the 9/11 attacks.
"The U.S. political system is full of cracks," Salami said. "Though impressive-looking, it has osteoporosis. In fact, America's story is like the World Trade Center towers that collapse with a sudden blow."
The Donald Trump administration labeled Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization in April, making it the first military institution of a foreign government to receive that designation.
The comments come amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington and just days after drone attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure carried out by Iranian-supported Houthi rebels from Yemen. The U.S. later withdrew much of its diplomatic staff from Iraq, citing intelligence reports alleging threats and evidence of heightened activity from Iranian-backed proxies in the country.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been meeting with foreign leaders and dismissing the potential for war. "There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region," Zarif told local media Sunday.
Weeks of escalation
A ramp-up in military posturing from both sides has regional watchers and America's Western allies worried that a miscalculation could spark a full-blown conflict.
The weeks prior saw the White House broadcast news of U.S. bombers and warships deployed to the Persian Gulf, citing "troubling and escalatory" threats coming from Iran.
Earlier this month, Iran announced it would end some of its key obligations to the 2015 nuclear deal — returning to higher levels of uranium enrichment and stockpiling — if the deal's European signatories didn't rescue the country's ailing oil and banking sectors hit hard by sanctions.
The Trump administration has tightened its chokehold on Iranian oil exports and its metals industry as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign, leading the Islamic Republic's leaders to describe the country's economic hardships as harder than those during its brutal Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
While some say this pressure may force Iran to the negotiating table, most analysts agree the country will not capitulate anytime soon, despite President Donald Trump's open invitation to its leaders to "call me."
Reports have emerged of internal division in the White House, describing national security advisor John Bolton as gunning for war while Trump remains reluctant. The leaders have outwardly said they do not want war and prefer a diplomatic solution, but some experts worry that the maximalist demands from the administration provide no off-ramp for either party to back down.