Iranian military adviser says nuclear deal was a mistake, warns of 'proxy war'

Monday, NBC News’ Lester Holt interviewed Iran’s Ali Shamkhani, the top military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei. Shamkhani told Holt that he regrets Iran’s decision to sign the nuclear deal:

Shamkhani, who rarely speaks to the Western press, said that there were people in Iran who felt that signing the 2015 nuclear pact, known as the JCPOA, was a mistake.

Asked by Holt if he was one of those people, Shamkhani said, “Yes. … I’m just following the viewpoints of my nation, the people of Iran.”…

“The sanctions campaign is not for negotiation, it’s for making us surrender,” said Shamkhani. “As long as this approach is taken by the United States, Iran will never ever seek negotiations.”

That’s the headline-worthy material according to NBC, though Shamkhani doesn’t seem especially forceful about it. What I found more striking was the seemingly casual way Shamkhani threatened to ramp up a proxy war if the US retaliated to Iranian provocations:

Trump’s recent decision not to attack Iran after the downing of a U.S. drone, said Shamkhani, was driven by a “calculation of cost and benefits.”

Should the U.S. and Iran become engaged in an open military conflict, Shamkhani told Holt, Iran has “multiple instruments at hand, including the proxy war,” but he did not specify who those proxies might be. Iran is a long-time supporter of Hezbollah, Hamas and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Both the U.S. and its regional allies would be in “a terrible situation” in the event of war, said Shamkhani.

This is from the same interview in which Shamkhani claimed Iran was a stabilizing force in the region. In any case, the US has blamed Iran for the sabotage of several oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” he said.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” said Pompeo, who didn’t offer further evidence.

In July, British Marines seized an Iranian supertanker near Gibraltar.

British Royal Marines in fast boats and helicopters on Thursday seized a supertanker suspected of carrying Iranian oil to Syria near the Mediterranean peninsula of Gibraltar, the first such detention of a ship under the terms of European sanctions targeting supplies to Syria.

Two weeks later, Iran seized of British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz but Iran claims that had nothing to do with the seizure of the Iranian tanker. So, Iran has already threatened the supply of oil through the Gulf, now it’s threatening a proxy war if the US dares to respond with military force. That seems to me like a bigger story than Shamkhani’s wishy-washy comments about the Iran deal. Here’s the NBC News report: