UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Iran on Thursday accused the United States of escalating an “unacceptable” escalation of tensions, asserting that Tehran was acting with “maximum restraint” despite Washington’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal with major powers.
Tensions rose after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal last year.
But the pace of escalation has accelerated in the past weeks as the United States sends an attack aircraft carrier, escort parts, and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter, as Washington says of Iran’s threats.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a visit to Tokyo on Thursday that “unacceptable escalation by the United States.”
“We are acting with the utmost restraint … despite the withdrawal of the United States last May,” said Zarif at the start of a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono.
Zarif made the remarks after the United States asked its non-essential staff to leave its embassy in Baghdad because of an “imminent” threat from Iraqi factions linked to Iran.
The threat came from an Iraqi militia “ordered and controlled” by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, one of whom said it was directly linked to Iran, and several threats directly related to Iran, senior State Department officials said on condition of anonymity.
“There is an imminent threat to our employees … and a request to leave part of the embassy is the logical thing,” he said.
– “psychological war” and no negotiations –
But these statements are only “excuses (…) and psychological warfare,” according to what was considered the faction “Asaib Ahl al-Haq” and “movement naive” Iraqis belonging to the popular mobilization.
The two factions, which are close to Tehran, said Washington was “trying to make a fuss in Iraq and the region under any pretext” and that its decisions were “provocations”.
The US decision reinforced concerns that the regional security situation could be disrupted and that the two sides would have a conflict, although both sides said they did not want to go to war.
But Trump predicted Iran would “soon” want to negotiate and denied any disagreement in the White House about steps critics say could trigger a war in the Middle East.
“I am confident that Iran will soon want to hold talks,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Twitter. He also condemned media reports of internal disagreement at the White House, saying “there is no internal disagreement, different opinions are expressed, and the final and decisive decision is taken.”
But Zarif, who also visits China on Friday, said Tehran remained “committed” to the deal, ruling out “any possibility of negotiations” with Washington aimed at reducing the escalation.
Opponents of Trump say militants led by national security adviser John Bolton, who has long sought to overthrow the Iranian regime, are pushing the United States into war.
Despite international skepticism, the US government points to escalating threats from Iran, the longtime enemy and rival of US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
– “Will test” –
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday stressed that the crisis with the United States was only a test of will.
“This confrontation is not military because there will be no war, neither we nor they are seeking a war, they know it is not in their interests,” he said.
“We are never seeking a war with Iran,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Although the two sides stressed that no war was being pursued, the major powers were quick to call for calm and expressed concern over the escalation of tension.
Washington said it had received intelligence about possible attacks by Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, possibly targeting US bases in Iraq or Syria.
But US allies continue to cast doubt on Washington’s warnings.
British Major General Chris Gekke, spokesman for the US-led international coalition fighting the Islamic state, said on Tuesday he had denied any “increased risk”.
“We have always been clear about our concerns about Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” the defense ministry said Wednesday, without confirming any imminent danger.
– Vector targeting –
Some observers believe that Tehran is seeking to respond to Washington’s decision in April to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on its black list of “foreign terrorist organizations” – a plan through which Washington sought to stop its activities in the Middle East.
But since the first US warning on May 5, no incident other than a mysterious “attack” on Monday occurred on tankers anchored off Fujairah, the UAE port at the key strategic gateway to the Gulf.
One or two tankers were slightly damaged in the structure, but the cause of the accident and the side behind it remain unknown.
In a separate development, the Saudi-led military alliance in Yemen on Thursday carried out raids on rebel-held Sanaa.
The raids came after Yemeni-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone strikes on Tuesday that damaged a Saudi oil pipeline.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman accused Iran on Thursday of ordering the Yemeni rebels to attack its oil facilities near Riyadh.
In the US Congress, Democrats demanded to know why Trump’s administration strengthened the military presence in the Gulf and, according to media reports, was considering plans for a war that could include sending 120,000 US troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked US interests.
“Congress has not authorized a war with Iran,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, a senior senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If the administration is considering military action with Iran, it must come to Congress for approval.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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