TEHRAN (AFP) – Influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has warned Iran to be wary of provoking the United States, comparing the Islamic republic’s arch foe to a “wounded tiger”.
Rafsanjani’s comments come amid speculation of possible US military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear programme, reignited by comments from Vice President Dick Cheney at the weekend that “all options” are still on the table.
“The Americans brought their troops with high spending to Iraq and Afghanistan. The only thing they did was to remove Iran’s enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban,” said Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997.
“They explicitly admit that their attempts ended up by serving Iran’s interests,” the Iranian press quoted him as saying on Tuesday.
“Therefore they are angry. So we must be more alert. They are like a wounded tiger and we must not ignore this.”
Iran has been seen by analysts as a major winner of President George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which removed two anti-Shiite regimes which were among the Islamic republic’s leading foes.
The comments by Rafsanjani, who now heads Iran’s top political arbitration body, come after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday compared the Iranian nuclear programme to a train without brakes or reverse gear.
Iran has been pushing ahead with uranium enrichment work despite a call from the UN Security Council for the activities to be frozen, provoking growing frustration in Washington.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charges, insisting that its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.
Washington has never ruled out using military action against Iran’s nuclear programme, although it insists it wants to end the standoff diplomatically.