US piles pressure on Iran with new troop deployments

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON

Jun 19, 2019-

China and Russia warned on Tuesday about escalating Middle East tensions after Washington said it would deploy 1,000 more troops to the region and renewed accusations that Iran was behind a tanker attack.

The US moves came as Iran set a 10-day countdown for world powers to fulfil their commitments under a nuclear deal abandoned by Washington, saying it would otherwise surpass the uranium stockpile limit mandated by the accord.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated ever since the US quit the deal, with Washington bolstering its military presence in the region and blacklisting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist

organization.

On Monday, Washington further upped the ante.

“I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said.

The United States has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a charge Tehran denies as “baseless.”

The Pentagon released new images on Monday that it said showed Iran was behind the attack on one of the ships.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned all sides “not to take any actions to provoke the escalation of tension in the region, and not to open a Pandora’s box.” He urged Washington to “change its practice of extreme pressure” but also called on Tehran not to abandon the nuclear agreement “so easily.”

Iran’s atomic energy organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Monday that the country would soon pass the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the nuclear deal. “The countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days’ time... we will pass this limit,” Kamalvandi said.

The move “will be reversed once other parties live up to their commitments,” he added. US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus responded that the world “should not yield to nuclear extortion.”

President Hassan Rouhani announced on May 8 that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the deal, in retaliation for the unilateral US withdrawal.

He said the ultimatum was intended to “save the (deal), not destroy it.” On Tuesday, he reiterated in a speech that Tehran was committed to the nuclear deal and said there was “no one in the world that does not praise Iran.”

“Iran has been loyal to its signature, Iran has been loyal to international agreements,” he added.

Tehran has warned it will be further scaling down nuclear commitments by July 8 unless remaining partners to the deal—Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—help it circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil.

Published: 19-06-2019 08:12

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