Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi, a former IRGC General who has previously served as Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani's advisor, said in a September 26, 2019 interview on Dijlah TV (Iraq) that Iran will respond to any American attack in any location that the Americans are present, including Iraqi soil, but that this does not constitute interference in Iraqi affairs. In addition, Ambassador Masjedi said that an Iranian response to an American attack would be followed by a response from "those who love Iran," such as Hizbullah in Lebanon, the PMU in Iraq, and Ansar Allah in Yemen. He explained that these groups would retaliate on their own accord because of their love for Iran. Furthermore, Ambassador Masjedi said that the Americans should take the option of military intervention against Iran off the table, and he added that Iran does not fear the United States.
Following are excerpts:
Iraj Masjedi: Iraq is an independent state. The Islamic Republic does not interfere in Iraq's affairs. Our problem is with the Americans. If they threaten Iran… The Americans are under threat wherever they may be. This does not constitute interference in Iraq's domestic affairs. Our goal is to reciprocate with the Americans. This can be [in] America itself or anywhere the Americans are present.
Iran demands that the U.S. forces leave the region, because they do not do anything positive or constructive. This is not specific to Iraq. It is true anywhere the Americans are present. The American presence does not generate security. On the contrary, it generates escalation and lack of security in the region. Therefore, the Iranian policy is based on expelling the U.S. forces from all locations in the region.
If the Americans threaten us and we threaten back, those who love us [in the region] follow suit. We cannot deter them from doing this. Moreover, if the Islamic Republic retaliates [after an attack], they will also follow suit, because they cannot accept seeing Iran threatened. Yet this decision is up to them.
Iraj Masjedi: No one can force someone to do such a thing. Hizbullah in Lebanon is an example of that. Hizbullah is a Lebanese movement, and nobody can say otherwise. If Iran is threatened, Hizbullah will certainly support it. Why wouldn't Hizbullah support Iran? It loves Iran. So it will certainly respond to the threat. But it is Hizbullah that will make this decision. The same is true in Iraq, in Yemen, and elsewhere.
ISIS came and threatened Iraq. You saw how Iran came and helped the PMU and the Iraqi government and military to defeat ISIS…
Interviewer: The Americans also helped us.
Iraj Masjedi: I don't know whether they helped or not.
Interviewer: This was stated by the Iraqi government of Dr. Al-Abadi.
Iraj Masjedi: I don't have any opinion about the role of the Americans.
We have never claimed to have a military option, but we have always said that we have the option of self-defense. If anyone attacks the Islamic Republic, we will retaliate. I suggest that the Americans take their [military] option off the table and place it under the table. They should at least do this with regard to the Islamic Republic, because this option of theirs is completely pointless. It is nothing but political exaggeration. I'm telling you, if the Americans threaten the Islamic Republic, it will respond forcefully…
Interviewer: Where will it respond?
Iraj Masjedi: We say that we will defend ourselves.
Interviewer: Where will you respond, Mr. Ambassador?
Iraj Masjedi: We will respond in any way possible…
Interviewer: But where?
Iraj Masjedi: There are different ways.
Interviewer: In what places?
Iraj Masjedi: Wherever the Americans are present.
Interviewer: Even in Iraq?
Iraj Masjedi: I've discussed this at the beginning. The Americans' locations, wherever they may be… If the Islamic Republic is threatened, these locations may be bombed, anywhere in the world – in Iraq and elsewhere. If they bomb the Islamic Republic, we will not stand idly by. It's best if the Americans just stop making threats. But in my opinion, the Americans do not dare to threaten Iran militarily, because they know that they can start a war but cannot end it. They know full well that Iran is not joking. They always talk about this for political purposes. Recently, however, they have become more reasonable to a certain extent. This is why they focus on the embargo and the economic pressure. I am telling you and the viewers with all honestly: The Islamic Republic does not fear the Americans.