As Pentagon mulls deploying more troops in Middle East, Iranian president says situation is ‘more complicated’ than the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s
Iran President Hassan Rouhani on Friday told a group of veterans that what he termed the US economic war on Iran is “more complicated” than the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, according to his office’s website. But he said Iranians would resist.
“We do not withdraw from independence and dignity even if our land is bombed,” Rouhani said.
The United States said Thursday it was considering deploying more troops to the Middle East as it looks for ways to enhance the protection of its forces in the turbulent region amid simmering tensions with Iran.
Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top storiesFREE SIGN UP
But acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied news reports that plans under consideration call for the deployment of as many as 10,000 more troops, a move that would further rattle frayed nerves in the region.
“What we’re looking at, are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan told reporters on a possible further buildup of the US military presence.
“It may involve sending additional troops,” he said.
Earlier this month, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier task force as well as B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defense battery to the Gulf.
The movements have come in response to what the US says are intelligence warnings of a heightened threat to its interests or allies in the Middle East from Iran.
But they have also provoked skepticism among members of Congress who worry that brinkmanship with Tehran could lead to a dangerous miscalculation.
Media reports Wednesday said the Pentagon was mulling adding 5,000 or 10,000 troops to the region, but Shanahan dismissed both figures.
“There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Shanahan said the US response had put the alleged threat posed by Iran “on hold.”
“We have deterred attacks based on reposturing of assets — deterred attacks against American forces,” Shanahan told reporters Tuesday after delivering a classified briefing to the full US Congress.
“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate,” he said.
Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, said Thursday the military will remain watchful about “deceptions by the US government and its adventurous” president.
“With the finger on the trigger, Iran is ready to respond to any invader strongly and with unbelievable speed,” Bagheri said in a statement.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was expected to arrive Thursday in Islamabad as Pakistan seeks to calm regional tensions. He was to hold talks with Pakistani officials on Friday.
“We believe the situation in the region is serious and needs to be addressed through dialogue by all parties,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We expect all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale conflict.”
A year after the US withdraw from the nuclear deal, Iran earlier this month declared that the remaining signatories to the agreement — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — have two months to develop a plan to shield Iran from American sanctions.
The accord, intended to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, promised economic incentives in exchange for restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities. Despite efforts so far by the others to keep the deal from collapsing, Iran’s economy has been struggling and its currency has plummeted after the re-imposition of US sanctions.
Iran continued abiding by the stipulations of the deal, according to a February report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, though it expressed increasing frustration with the inability of the Europeans to provide economic relief. A new IAEA report is due out soon.
Then on Monday, Iran announced it had quadrupled its production capacity of low-enriched uranium. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the nuclear deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon.
But by increasing production, Iran will likely soon exceed the stockpile limitations set by the nuclear accord, which would escalate the situation further.
Several incidents have added to the crisis, including the sabotage of the oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, as well as a rocket that landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US has blamed Iran for both incidents without publicly offering evidence. America also has evacuated nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq amid the tensions.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.