A senior Iranian military official lashed out on Thursday over the election of Donald Trump, calling the next American president a "joke" and warning him against threatening Iranian interests in the region.
Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the Iranian Armed Forces' chief of staff, warned Trump against "confronting" Iranian military assets in the Persian Gulf amid a series of incidents in the region in which Iranian-backed terrorists have attacked U.S. Navy vessels.
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"The person who has recently achieved power, has talked off the top of his head!" Bagheri was quoted as saying in Iran's state-controlled media. "Threatening Iran in the Persian Gulf is just a joke."
Trump insisted during the campaign that he would take aggressive action against Iranian naval vessels that harass U.S. ships in the region.
Iranian forces have made a series of provocative moves against the U.S. Navy in recent months, prompting criticism from outgoing Obama administration officials.
Regional experts said that Iran is worried a Trump administration would take more aggressive action to combat the Islamic Republic's provocative moves in the Persian Gulf, which includes the routine harassment of Western forces.
The Obama administration has declined to permit U.S. forces to engage with Iranian forces that perform aggressive maneuvers that endanger the forces.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that Iran is likely to test the future Trump administration.
"Despite much of the attention being paid to what President-Elect Trump's Iran policy has to do with the [Iran] nuclear deal, another domain the next administration will have to contend with Iranian belligerence in is in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," Ben Taleblu said. "Trump's statements about having Iran's IRGC speedboats—which have been overtly harassing the U.S. Navy in international waters—'shot out of the water,' appears to indicate a desire to respond more aggressively to Iranian provocations."
An aggressive U.S. response may send a message to Iran, Ben Taleblu said.
"The likely goal of such a response would be to deter future bad behavior in the same arena," he explained. "While General Bagheri may have written this off as bluster, he need only to look to how the U.S. dealt with this same issue in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War during Operation Praying Mantis and Operation Nimble Archer. It remains to be seen if Trump would escalate against Iran in such a fashion, but the message he sent early on is that the U.S. will not feel as constrained by the JCPOA to respond to the rest of Iran's non-nuclear threats."