WASHINGTON — The Trump administration issued a stern yet ambiguous warning to Iran on Wednesday for testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and after Iran-supported Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi naval vessel. Taking the podium at a White House press briefing, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn read a statement that declared the United States was “officially putting Iran on notice.”
Asked to clarify exactly what that meant, White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not give a detailed explanation, but told reporters the US wanted to send a message that Tehran could not engage in these activities without eliciting an American response.
“We wanted to be very clear that we felt their actions were both provocative and in violation,” Spicer said, “and making sure that they understood that we were weren’t going to sit by and not act on those actions.”
On January 29, lran launched a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) range ballistic missile that drew immediate concern from the United Nations Security Council and outrage from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Netanyahu on Monday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama administration and other P5+1 countries agreed with Iran in 2015.
In his statement, Flynn cited UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
He also criticized the previous administration’s handling of the Iranian threat and aggressive behavior in the region.
“The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions, including weapons transfers, support for terrorism, and other violations of international norms,” Flynn said.
“President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran, the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations, as being weak and ineffective,” he added. “Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
The nuclear deal, which rolled back Iran’s rogue nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions, was championed by Obama as a “game-changer” and was consistently castigated by Netanyahu as “a bad deal” that actually paves the way for an Iranian nuclear arsenal, resulting in a bitter dispute between the two allies.
Netanyahu, who is set to meet Trump in Washington next month on February 15, said he would urge a resumption of sanctions against Iran for missile testing, as well as “additional sanctions against [Iranian] terrorism.”
“Iranian aggression must not go unanswered,” he said.
On Sunday, Trump committed to enforcing the nuclear deal, despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord he repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.
In a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud, the president pledged to “rigorously enforc[e] the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referring to the deal’s formal name, according to a White House readout of the conversation.
The two leaders also vowed to “address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”