Iran Threatens 'Crushing' Retaliation as Pompeo Lauds U.S. Pressure Campaign

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has threatened a "crushing" response to any perceived U.S. aggression, following the conclusion of large military exercises that prompted a high alert at two regional U.S. bases.

The IRGC issued a statement Thursday claiming to have sent a potent message to the U.S. with the combined armed drills, which included ballistic missile launches and an attack on a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. U.S. troops in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were temporarily put on high alert during the missile launches.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has never started a war, but in case of any aggression against Iran, IRGC and other powerful defenders of the country will give a decisive and crushing response," the elite force—designated a terrorist organization by President Donald Trump's administration—said, according to the Mehr News Agency.

During the drills, the IRGC also released satellite images of the Al Udeid air base in Qatar which is home to more than 10,000 troops, using the country's first ever military satellite—the Nour-1.

Relations between the U.S. and Iran remain at a low ebb following years of tensions under Trump. Iran has been put under extensive U.S. sanctions following Trump's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal—and the president will almost certainly be unable to secure a new deal before the November election.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" strategy on Iran was working and stressed that the White House would continue pushing Tehran.

"We see the Islamic Republic of Iran for what it is: an aggressor, not a victim," he said, noting the administration has "gone full bore on our maximum pressure campaign."

The sanctions are designed to hamstring Iran's already struggling economy and force concessions from Tehran. A key element is throttling Iran's vital oil exports, which Pompeo told senators had been largely successful. "Since May 2018, we've slashed the vital oil revenues the regime uses for terrorism and illegal nuclear activities by 90 percent," he said.

Pompeo also celebrated the designation of Hezbollah—a Lebanese militia organization funded by Iran—as a terrorist organization in Europe and in some South American nations, citing it as a diplomatic success for the administration.

"There's more work to do," Pompeo told senators, noting that the United Nations Security Council has thus far refused U.S. demands to extend an arms embargo on Iran that expires in October—much to Tehran's glee.

"Iran already mines ships in the Strait of Hormuz, launches missiles at Saudi oil facilities, ships arms to the Houthis, and supports the illegitimate Maduro regime," Pompeo said. "If the Security Council fails to act, Iran will have a freer hand to sow destruction across the Middle East, and indeed the world."

Iran, Mike Pompeo, US, maximum pressure, IRGC
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Departments 2021 budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on July 30, 2020. JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty