DUBAI, May 30, (Agencies): The United States will respond with military force if its interests are attacked by Iran, the US Iran envoy said on Thursday as Arab leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia to discuss what they see as the threat from Tehran amid rising tensions.
But US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said US actions taken so far in the Gulf region, which include repositioning military assets, have had the “desired deterrent effect on the (Iranian) regime’s risk calculations”.
The US military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that US officials said was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
Hook was speaking to reporters by phone ahead of emergency summits of Arab leaders in the Saudi city of Makkah due on Thursday to discuss drone strikes on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and attacks on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast earlier this month. Tehran has denied involvement in either attack. The US is pursuing what it calls a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran to reduce its revenue streams from oil and other economic activities, in an attempt to curb what it sees as Tehran’s disruptive policies in the region.
Responding to a question about China and India importing Iranian oil and whether it was possible for them to keep importing small amounts, Hook said there would be no more exceptions granted to sanctions against Iran oil imports. “There will be no more oil waivers granted,” he said, adding that any oil imported by any country beyond waiver limits that ran from November last year to May, would be subject to sanctions.
The threat from Iran is not over but quick action from the United States has helped deter it, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday. “I don’t think this threat is over, but I do think you can make at least a conditional claim that the quick response and the deployment and other steps that we took did serve as a deterrent,” Bolton told reporters during a visit to London.
Asked whether he was at odds with President Donald Trump, who said earlier this week that the US was not looking for regime change in Iran, he said: “The policy we’re pursuing is not a policy of regime change. That’s the fact and everybody should understand it that way.” Bolton said there was some prospect that evidence Iran was behind attacks this month on oil tankers in the Gulf would be presented to the United Nations Security Council next week. “I don’t think anybody who is familiar with the situation in the region, whether they have examined the evidence or not, has come to any conclusion other than that these attacks were carried out by Iran or their surrogates,” he said.
Iran will not negotiate with the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, after President Hassan Rouhani signalled talks with Washington might be possible if sanctions were lifted. Washington withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal signed with Tehran in 2015, and it is ratcheting up sanctions in efforts to shut down Iran’s economy by ending its international sales of crude oil. US President Donald Trump condemned the accord, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, as flawed for not being permanent and for not covering Iran’s ballistic missile programme and role in conflicts around the Middle East.