After weeks of escalating tensions, Washington has said it is not seeking war with Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this during a trip to Russia.
The statement came after the U.S. deployed a carrier strike group and bombers to the Persian Gulf. Reports indicate Washington has created plans to send more military assets there.
CGTN’s Nathan King filed this report from Washington.
What is clear is that the U.S. policy of maximum pressure against Iran is ratcheting up. A year after pulling out of the nuclear deal, there’s an oil embargo and other sanctions so strong that Iran’s economy is reeling.
Washington has labeled Iranian Revolutionary Guards “terrorists,” and has continued the rhetorical attacks. However, what isn’t clear is whether the U.S. wants to go to war.
Fears of a clash were raised last week when the U.S. ordered an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. That followed ominous warnings from Washington that it would defend its interests in the Middle East against Iranian aggression.
The U.S. cited undisclosed intelligence about a possible Iranian attack. U.S. Secretary State Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to Germany and went to Iraq instead. On Monday, Pompeo sought an urgent meeting in Brussels with his European counterparts before flying to Sochi, Russia. But on Tuesday, there was a change of tune.
“We are looking for Iran to behave like a normal country, and that’s our ask,” Pompeo said. “We have applied to the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve that. We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”
Back in Washington, the U.S. President dismissed media reports that plans for 120,000 troops were being prepared at the request of the White House.
“I think it’s fake news, okay? Now, would I do that? Absolutely, but we have not planned for that,” Trump said. “Hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that, and if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Rhetorical reversals aren’t uncommon from the Trump White House, but the latest one makes it unclear how far the U.S. will push Iran. What is clear is that allies in Europe and regional power Russia oppose military intervention.
“I hope that reason would prevail, that the rumors about the alleged plans to send 120,000-strong United States army, which we’ve discussed today — and Mike said it was in the hands of the military — that those rumors are groundless, because the region is already over-strained by various conflict situations,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted on the current standoff, writing:
“This is not a military confrontation because no war is to happen. We don’t seek a war, nor do they. They know a war wouldn’t be beneficial for them.”
Iranian nation’s definite option is resistance against U.S. and in this confrontation, U.S. will have to withdraw. This is not a military confrontation because no war is to happen. We don’t seek a war nor do they. They know a war wouldn’t be beneficial for them. pic.twitter.com/LVwlidej0X
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 14, 2019
John Bolton, the U.S. National Security Advisor, has long been an advocate of regime change in Iran. Bolton is an unapologetic supporter and promoter of the Iraq War, and has a track record of seizing on intelligence that supports his hard-line positions. U.S. President Trump has even joked that Bolton may get the U.S. involved in war, saying recently: “He has strong views on things, but that’s okay. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing.”