‘Not at all’ concerned about potential clash with Iran: Trump

Washington, Jul 20 (IANS) | Publish Date: 7/20/2019 12:28:30 PM IST

The US is “not at all” concerned about a potential clash with Iran, President Donald Trump said Friday, warning that Tehran will pay a price like nobody has ever paid if it does “anything foolish” in the region.

 President Trump’s warning came a day after he said a US naval ship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Horumz after it had come within its “threatening range”, a development that is likely to escalate the simmering tensions between the two countries. “No, not at all,” Trump told reporters at the White House on friday when asked how concerned he was about a potential clash with Iran in the region.

“We have the greatest people in the world, we have the greatest equipment in the world. We have the greatest ships -the most deadly ships, we don’t want to have to use them, but they’re the most deadly ships ever conceived. And we hope for their sake they don’t do anything foolish,” he said.

“If they do, they will pay a price like nobody’s ever paid,” Trump warned.

The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.

Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said on Thursday the Iranian drone was destroyed at approximately 10 am local time when the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in the international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the strait.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that Boxer took defensive action against the Iranian drone, which had “closed into a very, very near distance”, approximately 1,000 yards.  He said it ignored multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the crew.

“The drone was immediately destroyed. This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” he said. 

The incident threatens to inflame already strained ties between Washington and Tehran, which worsened last month after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone it said was flying over its airspace.

Trump almost launched a military strike in response, but later said he called it back at the last minute when he decided the estimated death toll would have been too high. 

US to send troops to Saudi as tensions with Iran grow

The US will send additional troops and resources to Saudi Arabia to strengthen defence and deterrence in the Persian Gulf region in the face of “emergent, credible threats”, the Pentagon has said.

“In coordination with and at the invitation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary of Defence has authorized the movement of US personnel and resources to deploy to Saudi Arabia,” the US Central Command of the Department of Defence announced in a statement. 

“This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats,” it added, as tensions with Iran continue to escalate.

According to Central Command, which did not give specific figures, this manoeuvre will improve operational depth and logistical networks, Efe news reported on Saturday.

Media reports said the Trump administration was preparing to send 500 troops to the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia to strengthen its military presence in the region, in the face of Iran tensions.

In a separate statement on Friday, the Central Command said it is developing a multinational maritime effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance and security in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation.

“The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman,” it said.

The tensions between Iran and the US have increased since the White House announced in May 2018 that it would abandon the so-called Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran is formally known. 

Recently, the Pentagon has strengthened its military presence in the Middle East with the deployment of USS Arlington and a Patriot battery joining the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a US Air Force bomber task force in the region.


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