Iran will take over the Jordan Valley unless Israel maintains a military and civilian presence in the area, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night at a jubilee event marking the 50th anniversary of the state’s control of the region.

“If we are not here, Iran and ‘Hamastan’ will be here.

We will not let this happen,” said Netanyahu, as he made a rare visit to the Jordan Valley where some of the first settlements were built after the Six Day War.

The area is beyond the West Bank security barrier, and the future of its settlements was considered tenuous when the Obama administration was in power in Washington. It was feared that Obama’s diplomatic plans included Israel withdrawing from the settlements in the valley while leaving an Israeli military presence there.

Eliciting shouts, whistles and applause, Netanyahu pledged that he would not uproot the Jordan Valley settlements.

“The Jordan Valley will always be part of Israel. We will continue to settle it and invest in its industry and its tourism,” the prime minister said.


The region “has supreme security importance for the State of Israel,” he added.

“The Middle East is fickle and violent. The Jordan Valley is a strategic defensive belt for the state. Without it, a flood of fundamentalism could enter the country and reach as far as the Dan region. That’s why our eastern line of defense begins in this place,” Netanyahu said.

Anyone who questions that need should look no further than Israel’s northern borders, Netanyahu said in reference to Lebanon and Syria.

“We have a clear policy,” he said. “We will harm all those who try to hurt us. We will not accept leakage [occasional attacks]. , and we will do so quickly. But our existence here is not just dependent on the sword – it is also based on building, intelligence and creativity.”

Fifty years ago, when Israel entered the area, it was an “arid and yellow land,” the prime minister said.

In the future, Netanyahu said, he hoped the region, which borders Jordan, could help foster regional cooperation.

“This can be a place of peace and prosperity for all the people in the region,” he said.

Last month he spoke at the national 50th jubilee celebration of settlement in Judea and Samaria that was held in Gush Etzion. He likewise addressed the Samaria celebration that was held in August.

To mark the Jewish New Year, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited the Jordan Valley in September and similar pledged that it would remain in Israeli hands.

Netanyahu’s speech comes as US President Donald Trump is working to renew the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.


Islamic State still a threat, Iran must be countered, top US spy says

WASHINGTON — Islamic State militants are capable of orchestrating and carrying out an attack against the United States, possibly downing an airplane, even after being evicted from their self-declared Syrian capital of Raqqa, the CIA director said Thursday.

In a speech laying out the top international threats faced by the US, Mike Pompeo said other terror groups had their eyes on America as well, warned that nuclear deal with Iran had done nothing to curb Iran’s support for terror and estimated that North Korea was on the verge of reaching full nuclear capability.

Speaking a day after President Donald Trump’s acting homeland security chief invoked the possibility of another 9/11-style attack, Pompeo said America’s enemies around the world “are intent upon using commercial aviation as their vector to present a threat to the West.” However, he also worried about a terrorist capability “we just don’t see.”

“IS’ capability to conduct an external operation remains,” Pompeo said. “But I wouldn’t put them in a singular bucket. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has for a long time had this mission statement, which includes the taking down of a commercial airliner bound for a western country. Certainly, among those would be the United States.”

The typically blunt threat assessment came during a wide-ranging discussion at a Washington think tank, in which Pompeo also underscored President Donald Trump’s intent to counteract North Korea. He said Pyongyang is only months away from perfecting its nuclear weapons capabilities.

“They are closer now than they were five years ago, and I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, absent a global effort to push back against them,” Pompeo said. “From a US policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective.”

He also joked about the CIA’s history of making those working against American interests disappear.

“With respect to, if Kim Jong-Un should vanish, given the history of the CIA, I’m just not going to talk about it,” the CIA director said Thursday, when asked what would happen if Kim suddenly died.

“Someone might think there was a coincidence. ‘You know, there was an accident.’ It’s just not fruitful,” he said to laughs from a Washington audience full of national security officials.

On another nuclear concern, Iran, Pompeo stressed that Trump wants to ensure the US foe has no pathway to developing the bomb. To that effect, he said, the Iran nuclear deal former president Barack Obama and America’s allies negotiated with Iran was insufficient.

The notion that the agreement would “curtail Iranian adventurism or their terror threat or their malignant behavior has now … two years on, proven to be fundamentally false,” said Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas who keenly opposed to the seven-nation accord when it was reached.

He said the Iran deal put the United States in a better place with respect to inspections of Iranian facilities. But from an intelligence perspective, he said, even more “intrusive inspection” is needed.

“The Iranians have on multiple occasions been capable of presenting a continued threat, through covert efforts to develop their nuclear program along multiple dimensions … the missile dimension, the weaponization effort, the nuclear component itself,” he said.

Trump has provided the CIA with the authority it needs to track Iran’s compliance with the deal, he said.

Pompeo also said it’s an “open secret” that Iran has links to al-Qaeda.

“There have been relationships, there are connections. There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside al-Qaeda,” Pompeo said. “There have been connections where, at the very least, they have cuts deals so as not to come after each other.”

Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who also spoke at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies event, both said the US must counter Iran’s aggression in the region. They noted Iran’s support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants, who threaten Israel; backing of Shia militias in Iraq and Syria; cyber activities; ballistic missile efforts; and a long history of proliferation ties with North Korea.

Pompeo also discussed Pakistan’s help in getting an American woman, her Canadian husband and three children released last week from the Haqqani militant network. The couple had been held for five years inside Pakistan, he said.



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid reports that Moscow has accepted Israel’s demand for a Hezbollah-and Iranian-free buffer zone along the Syrian border, though not one as deep as Jerusalem had wanted.

Also on Wednesday, Iran’s military chief, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, met in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart, Lt.-Gen. Ali Ayoub, and warned Israel against violating Syrian airspace.

“It is not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria anytime it wants,” Bagheri was quoted as saying by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency.

Meanwhile, according to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, based on an Israeli source, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is visiting Israel, said that Moscow agreed to a 10- to 15-kilometer zone that would be off limits to Iranian and Hezbollah forces along the border on the Golan Heights. The report said that Israel had requested a 40-kilometer buffer zone.

Netanyahu has said in recent weeks that Israel never stipulated to the Russians how deep a buffer zone should be, but made clear to them – including in a meeting he had with Putin during their last meeting in Sochi on August 23 – that Israel would not tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sharpened that message on Wednesday, when he reacted to Iranian threats that Iran would no longer allow Israel to act militarily in Syria.

“The Iranians are trying to take control of Syria, want to establish themselves there and be the dominant force – we will not let that happen,” Liberman said. “We are aware of this, and have all the tools necessary to deal with this challenge.”

And in Syria, the SANA news agency quoted Bagheri as saying, “We are here in Damascus to coordinate and cooperate in facing our common enemies of Zionists and terrorists.” He added that the two sides “discussed means of enhancing relations in the future and outlined the bilateral cooperation.”

According to SANA, Ayoub said that the relations between the Iranian and Syrian militaries have been strengthened since Iran entered the civil war, and will be further enhanced following Bagheri’s visit.

The Kremlin issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Israel initiated the Netanyahu-Putin phone call, and that the two leaders discussed Russian-Israeli cooperation in the context of the agreements they reached in Sochi on August 23.

The details of those agreements were never made public, and the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday did not reply to queries about the nature of those agreements The Kremlin also said that Netanyahu and Putin spoke about “the Syrian settlement, the Iranian nuclear program, as well as the results of a recent referendum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.”

Liberman, meanwhile, denied that there was any disagreement with Russia over a buffer zone, saying these reports were baseless, and he did not know where they were coming from.

According to the report in Asharq al-Awsat, Shoigu told Israeli officials that the 40-km.

demand was unrealistic and that Iranian and Hezbollah troops have not approached the border since Russian troops entered Syria, saying that therefore the request was “exaggerated” and “superfluous.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.

Hours before Shoigu landed in Israel on Monday, IAF jets destroyed a Syrian antiaircraft missile battery stationed some 50 kilometers east of Damascus that had fired on Israeli planes in Lebanese airspace earlier that morning.

Israel and Russia implemented a deconfliction mechanism over Syria in 2015 to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries. And while Russia was updated about the incident in real time, according to the Israeli sources quoted by Asharq al-Awsat, the incident overshadowed the meeting and caused some tension between the officials.

According to the report, Shoigu considered it a “dangerous hostile operation that almost caused a severe crisis.”

Liberman will leave on Wednesday night for a four-day visit to the United States to meet with his American counterpart, James Mattis. During their previous meeting the two defense chiefs discussed issues such as the ongoing civil war in Syria and the threats posed by Iran, and it is believed that Liberman will ask Mattis for the US to act against Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria.



The UN Security Council must not ignore Iran’s aggressive behavior, its ballistic missile testing and its violation of this body’s resolutions regarding its military activity, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Wednesday.

She urged the 15-member body in New York to follow in the footsteps of the United States by changing its policy toward Tehran or risk it becoming another North Korea.

‘”When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands. If it is wrong for North Korea to do this, why doesn’t that same mentality apply to Iran’,” Haley asked the UN during its quarterly open debate on the Middle East.

While many of the speakers spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Haley devoted her entire speech to the danger the Iranian regime posed to the stability of the Middle East.

“The United States has now embarked on a course that attempts to address all aspects of Iran’s destructive conduct, not just one aspect. It’s critical that the international community do the same,” Haley said.

“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley said.

“The regime continues to play this council. Iran hides behind its assertion of technical compliance with the nuclear deal, while it brazenly violates the other limits on its behavior. And we have allowed them to get away with it. This must stop,” Haley said.

Iran is sending weapons to fuel conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where it has violated UN Security Council arms embargoes to the Houthi rebels in that country, Haley said.

Similarly, it has sent arms to Hezbollah, in violation of Security Council resolutions calling on the group to disarm.

“With our decision to take a comprehensive approach to confronting the Iranian regime, the United States will not turn a blind eye to these violations. We have made it clear that the regime cannot have it both ways. It cannot consistently violate international law and still be considered a fit and trusted member of the international community,” Haley said.

“This council now has the opportunity to change its policy toward the Iranian regime,” she added.

Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also used his speech to warn against Iran and its desire to annihilate his country.

“Iran seeks to destroy Israel by any means necessary. It has tried to obtain nuclear capabilities for years. Today, the regime’s intentions are no different than before.

“Passing and enforcing resolutions can save innocent lives. It is the council’s responsibility to implement them. You do not need to do this for Israel’s sake. If we are attacked by Iran, the regime will face no fiercer enemy than Israel. It is the innocent people around the world who need you to act,” Danon said.



Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Israel that Moscow has agreed to expand a buffer zone along the Israeli-Syrian border, where Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not be allowed to enter, Arab media reported Wednesday.

The statement attributed to an Israeli diplomatic official by London-based Asharq Al-Awsat said that Russia had refused the Israeli request for a 40 kilometers (25 miles) buffer zone, but expressed willingness to extend a 10-15 kilometer off-limits zone. Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays in the war-torn country.

As the war in Syria seems to be winding down in Assad’s favor due to Moscow’s intervention, Israel fears that Iran will help Hezbollah produce accurate precision-guided missiles and aid Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias to strengthen their foothold in the Golan Heights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly criticized a US-Russian cease-fire deal in Syria, saying that it does not include any provisions to stop Iranian expansion in the area. Russia is reported to have rejected a request from Jerusalem for a 40-kilometer buffer zone between the Golan Heights and any Iranian-backed militias in Syria, only agreeing to make sure that no Shi’ite fighter would come closer than 5 kilometers from Israel.

According to the report in Asharq al-Awsat, Shoigu told Israeli officials that the 40 km demand was unrealistic and that Iranian and Hezbollah troops have not approached the border since Russian troops entered Syria, saying that therefore the request was “exaggerated” and “superfluous.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.

Hours before Shoigu landed in Israel, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a Syrian anti-aircraft missile battery stationed some 50 kilometers east of Damascus which had fired on Israeli planes in Lebanese airspace earlier that morning.

While Russia was updated about the incident in real time, according to the Israeli sources quoted by Asharq al-Awsat, the incident overshadowed the meeting and caused some tension between the officials. The report alleged that Shoigu considered it a “dangerous hostile operation that almost caused a severe crisis.”

Israel and Russia implemented a de-confliction mechanism system over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who met privately with Shoigu at the IDF’s Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv Monday evening stated that “we will not interfere in Syria’s internal affairs but on the other hand we will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to turn Syria into a forward outpost against Israel and we will not allow the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.”

Liberman will leave Wednesday night for a four-day visit to the United States to meet with his US counterpart James Mattis. During their previous meeting the two defense chiefs discussed issues such as the ongoing civil war in Syria and the threats posed by Iran and it is believed that Liberman will ask Mattis for the US to act against Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria.

Backing nuke deal, Norway solar firm inks major deal with Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — Just days after US President Donald Trump called for further isolation of Iran, a Norwegian solar company signed a deal to invest 2.5 billion euros in the country over the next five years.

“Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and this is proof that we have taken the opening very seriously, and we will see more investment very soon,” Norwegian ambassador Lars Nordrum told AFP.

He was hosting the signing at his residence in Tehran between Norway’s Saga Energy, which will work with Iran’s Amin Energy Developers to install two gigawatts of solar panels in multiple sites around the central desert region.

It comes just days after Trump gave a fiery speech, imposing further sanctions on Iran and calling for European allies to curb their financial dealings with the country.

The new solar project is being financed by a consortium of European private and state investors, and backed by a sovereign guarantee from the government of Iran.

“We hope to build a factory in Iran to build the panels so that we are also generating jobs,” said Saga’s development manager Gaute Steinkopf at the signing.

“I’d like to thank Norway, which has always been one of the best friends to Iran, for this exciting opportunity,” said Saeid Zakeri, head of international affairs for Amin.

Iran drops death sentence in Prophet Mohammed insult case

TEHRAN — Iran has dropped a death sentence for a man convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a series of Facebook posts, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Soheil Arabi was sentenced to hanging in August 2014 after allegedly defaming the prophet and the 12 holy Imams of Shiite Islam in comments on social media.

Tehran prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi said Arabi, who was also found guilty of “insulting state officials” and “propaganda against the regime,” will now serve an unspecified jail term.

“The initial sentence was execution and its reduction to prison by the Supreme Court shows the independence of the judges,” judiciary-linked Mizan Online quoted Dolatabadi as saying.

The harsh sentence for Arabi, who is in his early 30s, had sparked criticism from rights activists.

Human Rights Watch called on Iran to “vacate the death sentence” for Arabi and has urged authorities to reform the criminal code to improve freedom of speech.

Dolatabadi also said that trade unionist Reza Shahabi Zakari — considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International — has been charged with selling “security-related information” to “hostile groups.”

Earlier in the month, labour news agency ILNA quoted Shahabi’s wife, Robabeh Rezayi, as saying her husband had been taken back to prison after being released on medical leave.

Former transport worker Shahabi, who was jailed in 2010 on charges supporters say are political, recently went on a 50-day hunger strike in protest at his detention, ILNA reported.

Iran does not provide official figures on executions, but Amnesty says it was the world’s second-most prolific executioner after China in 2016. Most of its hangings relate to drug trafficking.

Iran warns Europe against new nuke deal conditions

TEHRAN, Iran — A top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warned European governments on Tuesday against imposing new conditions on the nuclear deal.

“To say that they accept the JCPOA (nuclear deal) but should negotiate on Iran’s regional presence or talk about Iran’s missile defenses is to set conditions on the JCPOA, and this is not at all acceptable,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, senior foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“This is not Europeans’ right. The JCPOA has no conditions and it must be implemented according to what was signed,” he said in comments carried by the state broadcaster.

In a call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said talks on regional security and Iran’s ballistic missile program were necessary to ensure the survival of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Without referring directly to Macron, Velayati said European leaders “should take more care in their remarks and demands.”

Despite calling for further talks, Macron has staunchly backed the nuclear accord against US President Donald Trump’s threats to “terminate” it.

His call with Rouhani came shortly after Trump’s bellicose speech criticizing the deal, and Macron said he would visit Iran “at the appropriate time.”



For now, Iran can be expected to adopt a waitand- see approach without significant reaction to US President Donald Trump’s decertification of the 2015 nuclear agreement and his speech outlining an aggressive new posture against the regime in Tehran.

“At this stage, the Iranians have no interest in initiating anything by themselves,” said Yoel Guzansky, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies. “They have an interest in showing that the Americans are the ones causing the problems, that the US is moving away from the agreement and that they are the well-behaved children fulfilling it.”

Raz Zimmt, also an analyst at INSS, said: “The Iranians know that what is important is what actually happens, not the speech itself. They will be watching what happens in the US regarding the agreement. We are just at the beginning of the process. It can end with the withdrawal of the US from the agreement or, more likely, without something substantial. In that case, the Iranians don’t have to do anything because they have the Europeans on their side.”

Neither scholar believes Iran will agree to reopen the agreement itself.

“In the atmosphere that has been created, there is no chance [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani can do such a thing and there is no reason he will do it because no one besides the Americans is demanding it.”

However, with sufficient pressure on Tehran, Guzansky said it might be possible “to reach side agreements with Iran possibly on missiles and regional topics.”

For this, he said, “you would need to unite the international community around you and Trump has not done this.”

Zimmt, however, ruled out Iran being amenable to such side agreements.

In fact, he said, on the issue of missiles, Trump’s posture will likely drive the Iranians to be even more determined than before to pursue their ballistic missile program, which Trump declared is “so totally important” to stop.

“It’s not just that they won’t give up on it, it’s that the current circumstances are of escalation,” said Zimmt. “From the Iranians’ viewpoint, this requires them to strengthen their missile program, which they view as a factor deterring American aggression. The moment the American military threat increases, it’s not a time they would be ready to stop.

In some instances they may try to lower the profile, but with the threat increasing from their standpoint, I don’t see them taking their foot off the gas pedal.”

Zimmt is also not sanguine about a major change in Iran’s regional strategy of expanding its influence resulting from Trump’s posture. His assumption is that the US does not want to take steps that would amount to a declaration of war on Iran.

“That leaves us with economic and pinpoint means that don’t have the ability to significantly alter Iran’s policy.

It won’t change the Iranian worldview.

I don’t see an overall change in behavior although there could be some degree of limiting,” he said.

“What is viewed by us rightfully as Iranian provocations are, in their view, vital interests: their missile program; their involvement in Syria; the help to Hezbollah, they don’t see this as aggression or something illegitimate so there is no reason they would give up on it,” he continued.

Zimmt noted that two months ago there were reports Rouhani was interested in weakening the influence of the Revolutionary Guards, but now with Trump targeting them for further sanctions and putting them at the center of his denunciation of the Iranian regime, this has become impossible.

“Rouhani now has to stand behind the guards whether he likes it or not,” he said.

Zimmt indicated that Trump’s speech contained positive elements such as his declaration that Iran would never be allowed to attain nuclear weapons, but he stressed that “the path the Americans are going on is wrong. They shouldn’t think even for a moment of leaving the agreement. The main effort should be to invest in the next stage, to the time when the restrictions are going to be lifted. For this stage, the US needs understanding with its partners in the world. Taking unilateral action leads to American isolation and endangers the ability to reach an international consensus, which is crucial to the next stages.”

Guzansky said it was too early to pass judgment on Trump’s policy: “There are positive things in what he is doing and there is also danger and brinkmanship. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Iran angered by Trump, but needs nuclear deal

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — US President Donald Trump angered Iran with his speech on refusing to re-certify the nuclear deal, but Tehran is unlikely to walk away from the agreement in retaliation.

Brinksmanship aside, Iran needs to sell its oil on the international market as allowed by the atomic accord. And politically, Trump’s speech helps the same hard-liners America’s president says he wants to target, offering them a convenient punching bag as many Iranians took his words as a personal insult.

“Iran relents when it faces international unity and lacks domestic unity,” wrote Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “Trump is unifying Iran internally, splintering international unity.”

In particular, Trump’s insistence on using the term “Arabian Gulf” in place of the Persian Gulf riled the Iranian public. Online, Iranians shared historical maps and videos of former US presidents all calling it the Persian Gulf. Many saw it as a nod to the Gulf Arab states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two major US allies that long have criticized the nuclear deal.

The comments could also be seen as validating Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s longtime warnings against trusting the US or expanding negotiations beyond the narrow scope of Iran’s nuclear program.

Since Trump’s speech, which puts the burden on Congress to decide the nuclear deal’s fate, Iranian officials have threatened that they too could decide to unilaterally walk away.

“If someday our interests are not realized and other parties want to violate their commitments, they should be aware that Iran will not hesitate a moment,” warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

But the posturing belies the fact that Iran can ill-afford to risk the deal, which lifted crippling international sanctions in return for restrictions on its nuclear activities.

Iran rushed back into the global oil markets once the deal took effect, boosting its gross domestic product by 7.4 percent in the first half of 2016 and 2017, recovering from a recession in the period prior, according to the International Monetary Fund. That’s even with global oil prices now halved, after falling from highs of over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014.

US lawmakers have about two months to decide whether to put the accord’s previous sanctions back into place, modify them or do nothing. But even if Congress restores all the pre-2015 sanctions, Iran could agree to a revised deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union, the other parties to the accord, which have been telling Trump’s administration to stay in. That would hurt Boeing and other American companies, and make EU firms with US business interests wary, but Iran would likely see it as a far better outcome than the pre-2015 status quo.

“Iran is very unlikely to reflexively abrogate the agreement, given the substantial economic benefits it continues to receive,” wrote Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of the Eurasia Group.

However, the IMF warned that GDP growth outside of the oil industry averaged just 0.9%, a sign of the continued difficulties the average Iranian faces in the deal’s wake. While authorities announced landmark billion-dollar deals with Boeing, Airbus and other global entities, the typical person still struggles to find a job or have their stagnant salary keep pace with Iran’s lowered but still nagging inflation.

“We are sure that despite all this rhetoric, foreign investment and participation in infrastructural projects will be continued in our country,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday. So far, Iran’s stock market and hard currency markets remain unchanged.

Rallying around the flag does have its limits in Iran. Iranians applauded when Zarif challenged Trump on the naming of the Persian Gulf, but the foreign minister drew criticism from some quarters when he tweeted that “Iranians — boy, girls, men, women are all” part of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Guard, while fighting against the Islamic State group in Iraq, supports embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war, which some Iranians have started criticizing in public in recent months. The Guard also routinely arrests and imprisons dual nationals and others over espionage charges on secret evidence, drawing international rebukes. Its hand in putting down the Green Movement protests born out of Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election also lingers in Iranians’ memory.

The Guard has made a series of threatening remarks around Trump’s speech. It could test-fire another ballistic missile or force another tense encounter with the US Navy, which bases its 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

So far this year, the Navy has recorded 14 instances of what it describes as “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces, the most recent coming in August, when an unarmed Iranian drone flew close to a US aircraft carrier as fighter jets landed at night. The Navy recorded 36 such incidents in 2016 and 22 in 2015. Most involved the Revolutionary Guard.

“We’re watching closely,” said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a 5th Fleet spokesman.