US-Iran Deal Fallout Tests Resolve 06/18 06:21
In a test of resolve and credibility for the United States and Iran, the two
adversaries have taken steps sure to further inflame tensions in the Mideast
and draw them closer to a flashpoint.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a test of resolve and credibility for the United
States and Iran, the two adversaries have taken steps sure to further inflame
tensions in the Mideast and draw them closer to a flashpoint.
Iran announced it was breaking compliance with the international agreement
that keeps it from making nuclear weapons and the Trump administration followed
by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.
The Pentagon said Monday that the deployment includes security forces and
troops for additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering. It represents an
escalation of American military might aimed at deterring Iran and calming
allies worried about the safety of strategic shipping lanes .
Iran soon could start enriching uranium to a step away from weapons-grade
levels. That's a challenge to President Donald Trump's assurances to allies
that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place.
Iran's president said that while "we do not wage war with any nation," the
entire country "is unanimous in confronting" U.S. pressures. "The end of this
battle will see victory of the Iranian nation," Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday.
Iran said it would not abide by a limit on uranium stockpiles established
under the 2015 agreement, which was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic's
nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
After Trump withdrew from the deal signed by President Barack Obama, he
reinstated stiff economic sanctions, leaving the European and other partners in
the accord struggling to keep Iran on board.
The U.S. now finds itself in the awkward position of demanding that Iran
comply with a deal that Trump derides as the worst in history.
"We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon,
to abide by their commitments to the international community," State Department
spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
The U.S. accuses Iran of attacking two tankers near the Persian Gulf; the
Iranians deny responsibility. With details murky and no one owning up to the
attacks, the Pentagon released new photos intended to bolster its case.
In announcing the new deployment, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan
said the forces are "for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and
ground-based threats" in the Mideast.
"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," Shanahan said,
describing the move as intended "to ensure the safety and welfare of our
military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national
He said the U.S. will continue to adjust troop levels as needed.
Russia urged restraint by all parties and worries that the additional
American forces could "bring in extra tensions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry
Some supporters of the multinational nuclear deal blamed the Trump
administration for Iran's provocative announcements, saying they were
predictable given the renewed U.S. pressure.
"While Iran's frustration with Trump's reckless and irresponsible pressure
campaign is understandable, we strongly urge Iran to remain in compliance with
the nuclear deal," the Arms Control Association said in a statement. "It
remains in Iran's interests to abide by the limits of the agreement."
Iran has shown no willingness to negotiate another deal and has pledged not
enter into talks with the United States while the administration keeps up the
pressure with sanctions.
Administration officials are struggling with whether to press the remaining
parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, to demand that Iran
stay in compliance. They must also consider whether such a stance would
essentially concede that the restrictions imposed during the Obama
administration are better than none.
Under the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds (300
kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's
atomic agency, said it would pass that limit June 27.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. is most concerned about any violation
of the deal that would reduce the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear
weapon. The deal aimed to keep that "breakout time" at one year.
The official said certain violations would not necessarily reduce that time.
But other violations, such as enriching uranium to 20%, should be addressed
immediately if they occur, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss
the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet this week with the
European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, a leading deal
Pompeo, a leading critic of the deal while he was in Congress, has said
Iranian compliance is not really an issue because the administration sees the
agreement as fundamentally flawed.