Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked (File:Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo
“I have authorised approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” Shanahan said in a statement on Monday.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” he said.
… I think we are in an extremely dangerous situation and conflict could break out
Max Blumenthal, editor of GrayzoneProject.com
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” the statement said, adding that the deployment is aimed “to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests”.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, drawing condemnation from the US and its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Tehran denies the allegations as “baseless”.
The US military on Monday released new pictures that it claimed showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind an attack on one of the two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the Pentagon said in a statement that accompanied the imagery.
The US released a grainy black and white video last week it said showed the Iranians removing the mine, but has not provided an explanation for why they allegedly did so while the US military was in the area.
Max Blumenthal, editor of GrayzoneProject.com, said the message from the US is that they intend on continuing to escalate the crisis, triggered by Washington’s decision last year to exit an international accord that offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
“US is stepping up its maximum pressure strategy in a show of force that’s part of a two-year long undeclared war on Iran that includes what Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has correctly called ‘financial terrorism’,” he told Al Jazeera.
“At this point Iran feels cornered, and it’s taking its own measures to respond. And I think we are in an extremely dangerous situation and conflict could break out – something that extreme elements of Trump admin might actually be excited for.
“It’s no way to deny that Trump administration has embarked on a strategy of regime change which Iran will never accept.”
Earlier on Monday, Iran said it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”
Under the landmark agreement, Iran pledged to reduce its nuclear capacities for several years and allow international inspectors inside the country to monitor its activities in return for relief from international sanctions.
The deal set a limit on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges, and restricted its right to enrich uranium to no higher than 3.67 percent, well below weapons-grade levels of around 90 percent.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Iran to continue to abide by the 2015 deal and for all parties to refrain from steps that may escalate tensions in the Middle East.
Since exiting the deal, Washington has bolstered its military presence in the region and blacklisted the IRGC as a “terrorist” organisation.