Mattis to Iran: Don't Even Think About Taking Us On

Secretary of Defense James Mattis addresses National Guard leaders at the National Guard Association of the United States 140th General Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, Aug. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis addresses National Guard leaders at the National Guard Association of the United States 140th General Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, Aug. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday warned Iran against threatening the U.S. with retaliation for a terror attack over the weekend that killed at least 25.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have charged that the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel were behind the attack Saturday in the oil province of Khuzestan and vowed to "take revenge," but Mattis said it was "ludicrous to suggest we had anything to do with it."

He warned that the U.S. is prepared to respond against any Iranian attempt to move against its forces in the region.

"We've been clear; they shouldn't take us on like that," Mattis said at an informal session with defense reporters at the Pentagon.

Funerals were held Monday for victims of the attack in the southwestern city of Ahvaz by gunmen disguised as soldiers, who opened fire on a military parade and reportedly killed 25 and wounded 60. It is believed to be the deadliest act of terrorism in Iran in more than a decade.

Mourners chanted "Death to the U.S." and "Death to Israel," casting blame for the attack that came as Iran faces unrest over its faltering economy, withdrawal of the U.S. from the international agreement to limit Iran's nuclear programs, and the threat of additional U.S. sanctions in November.

Ahvaz is home to a large and restive Sunni Arab population whose activists have pressed for separation from overwhelmingly Shiite Iran, but Hassan Salami, acting commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said at a funeral for one of the victims that Iran would "take revenge" against the U.S. and its allies.

"You are responsible for these actions; you will face the repercussions," Salami said of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported. "We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge."

In response, Mattis said, "It would be good if they knew what they were talking about," adding that he hoped "cooler and wiser heads would prevail."

At the funerals, Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi said the gunmen who opened fire on the parade had been killed and a number of their accomplices had been arrested, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"A major part of them have been captured, and they will be identified to the last person," Alavi said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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