Russia has accused the Trump administration of “provocation” over its decision to send 1,000 more U.S. troops to the Middle East amid soaring tension with Iran.
America’s outgoing Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan announced the deployment of additional forces and military hardware to the region in response to “hostile behaviour” by Iranian forces.
The move came after two oil tankers were attacked last week in waters between Iran and Gulf Arab states.
“In response to a request from the U.S. Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, 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.
“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,” Shanahan said, adding the “United States does not seek conflict with Iran.”
The deployment comes after a similar deployment of 1,500 U.S. troops occurred in late May.
Iran and its backers in Russia have accused the White House of unnecessarily increasing tensions in the region, starting with Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull the U.S. out of the international nuclear agreement with Iran and ratcheting up economic sanctions and blacklisting its state institutions.
Yesterday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded saying he would not “wage war against any nation”, but his country is united against the U.S.
“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said.
“Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.
“The entire Iranian nation is unanimous in confronting” the U.S. in the Middle East, he added.
“The end of this battle will see victory of the Iranian nation.”
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (corr) yesterday called on America to abandon its plan to send more troops to the Middle East, calling it a provocation.
Ryabkov said Moscow had warned Washington and its allies repeatedly against what he called an “unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region.”
He accused the Trump administration of “unending and sustained U.S. attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way”.
“They (U.S. actions) cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war,” Ryabkov added.
Responding to America’s insistence war was not the objective, he said, “if that’s really how it is then the U.S. should step back from reinforcing its military presence.”
Iran denies any role in the tanker attacks and has voiced frustration at the mounting allegations from Washington that its elite Revolutionary Guard Corp was behind them.
On Monday, the Iranian regime said it was going to increase its production of uranium beyond the constraints of the crumbling nuclear deal it struck with global powers, including the U.S. in 2015.
The Pentagon reacted by releasing high-resolution photos which purportedly show Revolutionary Guard members attempting to destroy evidence of the attack on a Japanese oil tanker last week.
News of the new troop deployment came as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo travelled to the command centre that oversees Middle East military operations yesterday.
Pompeo has said the Trump administration is still mulling military action against Iran.