Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday a US decision to deploy 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East was “a threat to global peace and stability.”
“Increased US presence in our region is very dangerous and a threat to global peace and stability and must be confronted,” Zarif told the official IRNA news agency before heading home from a visit to Pakistan.
Washington says the reinforcements, which come after the deployment earlier this month of an aircraft carrier task force, B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defense system, are in response to a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
“Americans make such claims to justify their hostile policies and to create tension in the Persian Gulf,” Zarif said.
Meanwhile a top Iranian military commander warned Saturday that the country would employ “secret weapons” to destroy American Naval forces in the Persian Gulf if they initiate hostilities.
“America… is sending two warships to the region,” General Morteza Qorbani, an adviser to military command, told semi-official news agency Mizan in comments translated by Reuters. “If they commit the slightest stupidity, we will send these ships to the bottom of the sea along with their crew and planes using two missiles or two new secret weapons.”
Another senior commander, General Hassan Seifi, said “rational Americans and their experienced commanders will not let their radical elements lead them into a situation from which it would be very difficult to get out, and that is why they will not enter a war.”
Seifi, an aide to the army chief, was speaking to semi-official news agency Mehr.
On Friday a senior Pentagon official publicly blamed Iran and its proxies for recent tanker bombings near the United Arab Emirates and a rocket attack in Iraq.
Vice Admiral Michael Gilday told Pentagon reporters that the US has “very high confidence” that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was responsible for the explosions on four tankers, and that Iranian proxies in Iraq fired rockets into Baghdad. He said Iran also tried to deploy modified small boats that were capable of launching cruise missiles.
Gilday told reporters US actions were based on intelligence and evidence gathered in the region, and officials said they are trying to declassify some of the information so that it could be made public.
He said the US continues to see intelligence suggesting that Iran is actively planning attacks against the US and partners in the region by the Revolutionary Guard and Iranian proxies in Yemen and Iraq.
Trump has in recent weeks alternated between tough talk toward Iran and a more conciliatory message, insisting he is open to negotiations with the Islamic Republic. He seemed to downplay the prospect of conflict when he spoke at the White House.
“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight and I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” he said.
The US has about 70,000 troops across the Middle East, including at a major Navy base in Bahrain and an Air Force base and operations center in Qatar. There are about 5,200 troops in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria.
Tensions have been rising with Iran for more than a year. The Trump administration withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers, and reinstated American sanctions that have badly damaged the Iranian economy.
The president has argued that the nuclear deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US argues destabilize the region.