White House: Iranian's visit to Hezbollah grave raises tensions

The White House on Tuesday warned Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's actions would “exacerbate tensions” after he laid a wreath at the grave of a Hezbollah terrorist involved in attacks against the United States.

Zarif visited the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah-affiliated terrorist who was involved in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut among other terrorist attacks, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

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“The inhumane violence that Mugniyah perpetrated — and that Lebanese Hezbollah continues to perpetrate in the region with Iran's financial and material support — has had profoundly destabilizing and deadly effects for Lebanon and the region,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

“The decision to commemorate an individual who has participated in such vicious acts and whose organization continues to actively support terrorism worldwide sends the wrong message and will only exacerbate tensions in the region.”

The Council on Foreign Relations said Mughniyeh was also involved in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the bombings of U.S. embassies and the murders of CIA station chief William Buckley and Navy diver Robert Stethem.

The wreath-laying comes amid bluster from Iranian officials following the signing of a temporary nuclear deal with world powers. 

Iranian Army Commander Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi told the Iranian state news agency FARS that the U.S. accepted the agreement because it could not defeat Iran militarily. 

“Had the enemy been able to confront us militarily, it would have already taken action,” Salehi said. “Given their weakness in the military dimension, they have opted for the political arena and we will certainly succeed in this area too.”

Iran's chief negotiator also claimed victory in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency.

“No facility will be closed; enrichment will continue, and qualitative and nuclear research will be expanded,” Abbas Araqchi said.  “All research into a new generation of centrifuges will continue.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the comments, saying it was “not surprising to us, nor should it be to you, that the Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way for their domestic audience.”

“It doesn't matter what they say; it matters what they do,” Carney said.

Lawmakers in both parties have criticized the deal, arguing it does not impose enough restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to justify the lifting of any sanctions.