A senior Iranian military official warned on Wednesday that the country is ready for a military confrontation, comments issued just days after air traffic controllers in New York intercepted a message claiming a plane would be flown into the U.S. Capitol building as part of retribution for the killing of a top Iranian military leader.
"Iran is ready for any threat, the hands of our armed forces are on the trigger, and if the enemies make the slightest mistake, the armed forces will respond firmly," Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff for Iran's armed forces, said in comments carried in Iran's state-controlled press.
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The threat, which was centered on U.S. forces operating in the region, comes amid concerns about a possible terror attack Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Air traffic controllers stationed in New York reportedly intercepted a message claiming a plane would strike the Capitol building in revenge for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last year. "We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged," the suspect said, according to CBS News.
While it remains unclear if Iran is directly responsible for the threat, the country is not backing down from its violent rhetoric directed at U.S. forces and allied troops operating in the region. Iran is currently engaged in large-scale military exercises for its fleet of attack drones.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to increase its enrichment of uranium, the key component in an atomic weapon.
Iran's nuclear chief announced on Tuesday the installation of 1,000 new centrifuges, which enrich uranium to levels needed for a weapon. Iran has already crossed the 20 percent enrichment threshold, a milestone widely seen by nuclear experts as the tipping point to nuclear weapons technology. While Iran is prohibited under the nuclear deal from stockpiling highly enriched uranium, it has breached these restrictions in order to pressure Western nations into granting it relief from harsh economic sanctions.
Iran also has around 30 tons of yellowcake, a uranium powder also used in nuclear weapons, according to Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy organization.
In November, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani urged incoming president Joe Biden to "compensate for past mistakes" and bring the United States back to the nuclear agreement, which President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.