US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Saturday that Iran is the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, as President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions on the country’s weapons procurement network.
“As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Mattis said at a press conference in Tokyo, but he added that the US had no plans to increase troop numbers in the Middle East in response.
“I think it is wise to make certain that Iran recognizes that what it is doing is getting the attention of a lot of people,” Mattis said.
He added: “It does no good to ignore it. It does no good to dismiss it. At the same time, I don’t see any need to increase the number of forces we have in the Middle East at this time.”
During his tenure as commander of US Central Command, which ended in 2013, Mattis was known to have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran than the Obama White House would tolerate. He has called Iran the biggest threat in the Middle East.
Mattis’s comments came shortly after Iran announced it would take “reciprocal action” against US individuals and companies after the Trump’s administration imposed new sanctions on Tehran over its weapons procurement network on Friday.
“In response to the new move by the United States of America and as a reciprocal action, (Iran) will impose legal limitations for some American individuals and companies that have had a role in the creation and support of extreme terrorist groups in the region,” the foreign ministry said.
“The names of these individuals and companies will be announced later,” it said in a statement.
“Missile development and capabilities of the country, which is merely designed for defensive objectives and carrying conventional weapons and that will never be used except for legitimate defense, is the right of the people of Iran based on international law and the UN charter,” the ministry said.
The fresh US measures were in response to Iran’s latest ballistic missile test and its support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen who in the past week targeted a Saudi warship, US officials said.
The additional US sanctions list three trading networks and individuals allegedly involved in supplying Iran’s missile program.
Iran last Sunday test-fired a medium range missile, which the White House contends violated a UN Security Council resolution proscribing missiles that could carry a nuclear device.
The Islamic republic has confirmed it tested a ballistic missile but denied it was a breach of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers or UN resolutions.