EghtesadOnline: The growing presence of American forces in the Middle East poses an "extremely dangerous" threat to international peace and stability, and needs to be responded to, Iran's top diplomat said on Saturday.
The United States on Friday said it was sending 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran as it accused the country’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.
Four commercial vessels were targeted by sabotage operations near the UAE emirate of Fujairah on May 12, which included two Saudi oil tankers.
Pentagon officials on Friday publicly blamed Iran for the bombings, but did not provide evidence to support the claim, saying they hoped to further declassify intelligence supporting the allegation, Financial Tribune reported.
Iran has dismissed the accusations entirely and accuses the United States of brinkmanship.
"Americans make such claims to justify their hostile policies to destabilize the Persian Gulf [region]," Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also told IRNA.
US President Donald Trump has described the latest deployments as defensive in nature.
“We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective," he said.
The 1,500 troops include personnel manning missile defense systems, aerial surveillance to spot threats and engineers to fortify defenses. It also includes a fighter jet squadron, Reuters reported.
The actions were the latest by the Trump administration as it highlights what it sees as a threat of potential attack by Iran and follows decisions to speed the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as send bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East.
The Iran-US conflict flared up after Trump's last year exit from the 2015 nuclear deal and its sanctions renewal.
Washington has been intensifying pressure on Tehran with the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.
The situation has reached a critical level in recent months, raising concerns over a potential war between the two countries, although both sides have expressed reluctance to initiate military confrontation.
Officials in Tehran have described the US measures as "psychological warfare".
“We believe rational Americans and their experienced commanders will not let their radical elements lead them into a situation from which it would be very difficult to get out, and that is why they will not enter a war,” Brigadier General Hassan Seifi, an assistant to Iran’s army chief, told Mehr news agency.
The Democratic lawmaker who heads the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, said the deployment “appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran”.