London, 3 Feb – On February 1, Yahoo News published an article by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick for Rueters, where they reported that this past Wednesday the new US administration put Iran “on notice”, for test firing a ballistic missile. While the White House reviews how to respond, they are taking an aggressive posture toward Tehran, and perhaps raising tensions in the region.
Although the implications of the U.S. threat remain unclear, Donald Trump’s administration warned that the President intends to do more to curb what he views as defiance of a Nuclear Deal negotiated in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama.
Experts said that the administration is now committed to back up its tough talk with action, casting doubt on the future of the Iran agreement and escalating uncertainty in an already chaotic Middle East.
The Iran Nuclear Deal has been frequently criticized by Trump, who called it weak and ineffective.
Although officials declined to talk about the military option, Christopher Sherwood, Pentagon spokesman, said on Sunday, “The U.S. military has not changed its posture in response to the Iranian test missile launch.”
In his first appearance in the White House press briefing room, Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, stated in an aggressive rhetoric that Obama’s less confrontational approach toward Iran was over. Flynn said that instead of being thankful to the United States for the nuclear deal, “Iran is now feeling emboldened.” He told reporters,”As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” He also stated that the launch and an attack on Monday against a Saudi naval vessel by Iran-allied Houthi militants off the coast of Yemen points to “Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.”
Iran confirmed it had tested a new missile, but claimed that it did not breach the nuclear accord with world powers, or a U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.
According to analysts, Iran may interpret Flynn’s warning as bluster, given that the Trump administration is still formulating a response.
Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Americas said, ”It’s a vague way of drawing a line in the sand. Taken literally, it could mean: ‘You do this one more time and you’ll pay for it.’ But how would the U.S. respond?”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, three senior U.S. officials said a range of options, including economic sanctions, were being considered, and a broad review conducted regarding the U.S. posture toward Iran.
The intent of Flynn’s message was to make it clear that the new administration won’t be ‘shy or reticent’ toward Tehran, according to one official, “We are in the process of evaluating the strategic options and the framework for how we want to approach these issues. We do not want to be premature or rash or take any action that would foreclose options or unnecessarily contribute to a negative response.” He continued, “Our sincere hope is that the Iranians will heed this notice today and will change their behavior.”
Since the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran has test fired several ballistic missiles, but this latest test was the first since Trump became president.
The issue emerged on the day that the U.S. Senate confirmed former Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. At his swearing-in ceremony, Trump told Tillerson that “although you inherit enormous challenges in the Middle East and around the world, I believe we can achieve peace and security in these very, very troubled times.”
Gulf expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Simon Henderson, said there is a danger of a miscalculation by Washington or Tehran. “The question now is, will the Iranian logic be: ‘My goodness, this guy is serious, we’d better behave ourselves?’ Or do they say: ‘Why don’t we tweak him a bit more to see what he really means, maybe test him.’”
According to a statement by U.S. Central Command, the administration’s statement came midway through a three-day exercise by 18 U.S., French, British and Australian warships and an undisclosed number of aircraft close to Iranian waters in the Gulf.
Trump is scheduled for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a critic of the Iran Nuclear Deal, at the White House on February 15.
The President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s ruler, King Salman, spoke by phone on Sunday, and the White House commented that they agreed on the importance of enforcing the deal and “addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
Shi’ite Muslim-majority Iran and Sunni Muslim-dominated Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and other Islamic holy sites, and are regional rivals.