When Iran threatens war with the U.S., it's not necessarily talking about war in the conventional sense. But where Tehran can cause damage is an escalation of activities that's likely to send further ripples across regional conflicts and oil markets.
The battle of words between Iran and the U.S. hit its latest peak Thursday after the Islamic Republic's top general warned that if President Donald Trump started a war with his country, Iran would end it.
"If you begin the war, we will end the war. You know that this war will destroy all that you possess," Major General Qassem Soleimani said from Hamedan, Iran, in a message directed at Trump. It followed several days of back and forth acrimony between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The open threat was significant, coming from a man who largely operates in the shadows: as the commander of the Quds Force, the elite external branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Soleimani is believed to be the single most powerful figure in Iran's entire establishment. To many, he is the most influential operative in the entire Middle East.