Iran executes Ministry of Defense employee as CIA spy amid bellicose rhetoric

As tensions rise in the Persian Gulf following the downing of a US spy drone by Iran, the spokesperson for the Iranian Armed Forces threatened on Saturday that Tehran would respond firmly to any aggression by the United States.

Meanwhile the British government announced that it was sending its Middle East minister to Tehran to try to de-escalate the crisis that is teetering on the brink of an all-out war.

“Threat against threat means that if one bullet is fired at us from the enemy, ten bullets would be fired back,” Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesperson for the Iranian Armed Forces told Tasnim News. “Iran’s Armed Forces …have one message for the world ‘we do not intend to violate any country but if Iran is a subject of any aggression by enemies, they would face a regretful…and historic response”, Shekarchi added.

Two days after shooting down the US spy drone, the Judiciary Organization of the Iranian Armed Forces announced on Saturday that it has executed an employee of its Ministry of Defense on charges of “spying for the CIA and the US government”. The employee was named by the Iranian media as Jalal Haji Zavar who was detained in 2010. His wife was sentenced to 15 years in prison for assisting her husband.

The current heightened tension in the Persian Gulf following the attacks on several oil tankers and the downing of the US spy drone in the early hours of Thursday morning [Iran local time] has pushed Brent oil prices towards$ 65 a barrel, and has led many international and regional airlines to reroute their flights away from the Persian Gulf.

Iraq and the Kurdistan Region’s aviation authorities have not rerouted commercial flights away from the Persian Gulf, nor have they discussed doing so in response to the shooting down of a US drone by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

Iran has defended its action in shooting down the drone and summoned the UAE top envoy to Tehran on Saturday to complain about the UAE allowing its soil to be used by the US to spy on Tehran.

The increased hostility between the US and Iran are threatening to destabilize the region and to unravel the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal which curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief. Iran has warned it would suspend further commitments under the deal in two weeks if European countries do not ease the US economic pressure on Tehran.

Iran suspended two of its commitments in early May following US refusal to renew oil waivers issued in November, that permitted eight countries to continue buying Iranian oil. Iranian government officials have described the widening US economic pressures as “economic terrorism.”

As the bellicose language from both US and Iranian officials continued into Saturday, the UK foreign office announced that it was sending Minister of State for the Middle East Andrew Murrison to Tehran on Sunday “for further open, frank and constructive engagement … at the time of increased regional tension and at a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal.”

“Dr Murrison will call for urgent de-escalation in the region and raise UK and international concerns about Iran’s regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed,” a press release from the Foreign and Common Wealth office said.

Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if Tehran is unable to export oil. The US and its regional allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, claim that Iran was behind the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman in recent weeks but Tehran has flatly denied the allegations.

President Trump came close to launching targeted airstrikes on Iranian targets on Thursday night following the downing of the US spy drone. Trump later said that he aborted the attack to spare Iranian lives as his generals told him that the targeted strikes would kill around 150 Iranians.

President Trump continued his aggressive posturing on Friday when he said that Washington does not want war with Iran but if it comes to it, Iran would face “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

“The main obstacle against the enemy is [our] defensive capabilities…If Iran’s military capability is shattered, which is what the enemy wants…then definitely the option of war will be on the enemy’s table, like Iraq,” added Shekarchi, the spokesperson for the Iranian Armed Forces, in the same interview with Tasnim.

“Initially Iraq’s defensive capabilities were destroyed, it was disarmed, and then the invasion materialized–this is the modus operandi of the enemy where it goes.”