ATHENS - Iran said it will react against Greece “in a clear and decisive manner” if the New Democracy government allows the United States to use bases in the country if there’s a conflict, and would consider it a “hostile act.”
Unspoken was that Greece could be caught up in battles or a war between Iran and the United States, putting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a tough spot after just meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, seeking American backing against Turkish aggression in the seas.
Through its embassy in the Greek capital, the Iranians were responding to an article in the newspaper Kathimerini on Jan. 6 - a day before Mitsotakis met Trump - which stated that “Greece will have some involvement” in case of a US operation against Iran, “though not with a warship … due to the extremely fragile balance” in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The same article said that the US Armed Forces are boosting their presence in their military base in Souda, Crete, near where Turkey said it plans to drill for oil and gas after signing a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them.
The US and Greece last year renewed a military cooperation deal and conducted a US-Greece Strategic Dialogue, with links between the countries said the closest ever and the US considering Greece an ally and in a key geopolitical position in the region.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has made it very clear that in the event of a US-led war against the country, the concession of [military] bases by any country to the American invader will be considered a hostile act and Iran reserves the right to respond in a clear and decisive manner,” the Iranian embassy in Athens said in a letter sent to Kathimerini.
“Given the friendly, traditional and historical relations between the two countries, Iran and Greece, and the absence of any differences or tension between them in recent centuries, we believe that this statement cannot be the official position of the Greek government and our friendly and historical relations will continue in the future,” it added.
While stated diplomatically, it could be seen as a clear threat that Iran will retaliate militarily against Greece if the US uses its own base at Souda Bay or Greek bases where the US had troops and drones and other military facilities and operations.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias admitted in a TV interview that Iran had lodged a demarche to the Greek government over the comments made by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made in the US the American assassination of an Iranian General.
“Indeed, there has been a protest on the part of Iran,” Dendias told Open TV but claimed he had not seen the text of the demarche then and that he would speak on the phone with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, who asked for a discussion.
Asked about Greece's view on the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani during an event at the Atlantic Forum, Mitsotakis said: “We are allies with the US, so we stand by our allies through difficult times. I understand this particular decision was taken by taking into consideration what is the US national interest and we stand by that decision.
“At the same time, one needs to be fully aware of the fact that there is broader concern in the region about a possible escalation and I think efforts should be made … to move towards moves that will deescalate the overall tension and hope that this is a message that will be received by everyone.”