United States President Donald Trump threatened 52 Iranian sites on Sunday, saying he was willing to strike them if Iran attacked Americans.
The Twitter threat came only days after Trump directed an airstrike on Baghdad's International Airport which killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's infamous Quds Force. Soleimani was regarded as one of Iran's most powerful people and his death has spurred threats of revenge from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, has also promised a military response to the airstrike, which Ravanchi said was an "act of war".
Tweeting on Sunday, Trump said Iran was "talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American and badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters."
"He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years," Trump said.
The president then threatened Iran.
"Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have argeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!"
The number '52' refers to the number of hostages who were detained by Iran at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
The Trump-directed attack comes after a week of heightened tension between Iran and the US. Last week, an America contractor in Iraq was killed in a rocket attack which the US blamed on Iranian-backed militia. In response, the US killed 25 Kataeb Hezbollah fighters, leading militias to attack the US Embassy in Baghdad.
An additional airstrike hit in the Iraq area of Taji on Saturday, killing at least six people. There were also rocket attacks across Iraq on Sunday, including in the fortified Green Zone near to the United States Embassy. It's unknown who is responsible for those attacks.
Sticking to similar lines to what the Pentagon said in a statement following the airstrike, US Trump said on Saturday that the decision to strike was to "stop a war". Ravanchi, however, said it had started one.
"Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him," the president said.
Roughly 3000 additional soldiers are being sent to the Middle East following Friday's airstrike.
How Iran will respond, and when and where, is not known. The US Homeland Department says there are no current domestic threats but is on the watch for any cyber attacks.
Democrats have criticised Trump's direction to strike, saying it wasn't educated and was ordered without congressional permission. However, sources have told CNN there was a consensus within the president's national security cabinet that based upon intelligence, action was needed. Three sets of White House lawyers also vetted the plan and said Trump did not need authorisation.