The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced its deployment to the Middle East earlier this week, was cited transiting through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, where it is now joining the fifth fleet of the U.S. Navy, with the aim of deterring Iranian forces from attacking American interests.
U.S. President Donald Trump was asked last night, during an unrelated White House announcement, that the reason for the decision to fast-track the Naval deployment of the aircraft carrier to the region aimed to counter Iranian threats.
While Trump insisted that he hoped to avoid a military confrontation, he underscored that he could not rule-out the risks of war. When posed with the question: “What did Iran do to prompt you to send an aircraft carrier to the region?” President Trump replied: “Well, they were threatening, and we have information. We have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening, and we just want to have–. We have to have great security for this country and for a lot of other places…” When the same reporter asked if “there a risk of military confrontation, sir?” the U.S. leader answered: “I guess you could say that always, right? Isn’t there? I mean, always, you know. I don’t want to say no. But, hopefully, that won’t happen.”
The American President noted, however, that the United States was open to normalizing relations with Iran, if the latter would sincerely abandon their nuclear ambitions and aggressive behavior across the Middle East.
President Trump also took the opportunity to condemn former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been advising the Ayatollah Regime on their policy toward the United States – accusing the former top diplomat, who served under the Obama Administration, of breaching the Logan Act that criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized persons with foreign governments that have a dispute with the United States. According to the American President: “their economy is a mess ever since I took away the Iran deal. They have inflation that’s the highest number I’ve ever heard. They’re having riots every weekend and during the week, even. And, what they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal; a fair deal. We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons; not too much to ask. And, we would help put them back into great shape. They’re in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day when we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran. I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy. But, they’re listening to John Kerry, who’s violated a very important element of what he’s supposed to be doing. He violated the Logan Act. Plain and simple, he shouldn’t be doing that. But, they should call and if they do, we’re open to talk to them.”
Following President Trump’s statements on Iran, U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement in which he asserted that “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against U.S. interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive U.S. response.” Pompeo further cautioned that the United States’ “restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve.”
In related news, the European Union vehemently rejected an Iranian 60-day ultimatum to realize Europe’s so-called obligation to by-pass the U.S. sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy. In a written statement published in response to the Iranian ultimatum, the European Union highlighted that it “strongly urge(s) Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPOA in full, as it has done until now, and to refrain from any escalatory steps,” while further emphasizing that the EU “reject(s) any ultimatums.”
During an EU summit in the Romanian city of Sibiu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated the European Union’s position, that while it is keen on avoiding an escalation with the Islamic Republic, Tehran must recognize that it is in its own interests to remain committed to the deal. The German leader further highlighted the fact that while Europe hopes to preserve the nuclear deal, it does not agree with Iran on its foreign actions and aspirations, including its declared goal of annihilating Israel and its aggressive behavior across the Middle East. According to Merkel: “We do not want an escalation. We want to use further diplomatic means. We know our limits, but the more Europe is united — and this was the common position here — the better chances we have to implement chances and solutions through dialogue.”
While the European Union evidently failed to broaden its so-called Special Purpose Vehicle that aims to by-pass the U.S. sanctions on Iran, limiting its function to the export of humanitarian goods; the Iranian decision to scale-back on its commitments to the nuclear agreement and pose an ultimatum on Europe has infuriated European officials who have warned that unless the Islamic republic reconsiders its position, there will be consequences. Jeremy Hunt, U.K. Foreign Secretary, said: “If they break that deal, then there will be consequences in terms of how European powers react. So we urge the Iranians to think very long and hard before they break that deal. It is in no one’s interest, it is certainly not in their interest because the moment they go nuclear, their neighbors will as well. And so that’s why this is a very serious moment, and we strongly urge them to reconsider what they said in their letter (ultimatum).”
Meanwhile in Beijing, in the face of growing tension between China and the United States, the Beijing government has boldened its position vis-à-vis its economic, trade and energy cooperation with Iran, which it claims, ‘is conducted within the framework of international law.’ While Chinese companies have evidently sought to avoid doing business with the Islamic Republic for fear of U.S. penalties, the Chinese government is stepping up its efforts to convince Washington to avoid punishing its enterprises. Chinese Ministry of Commerce Spokesman Gao Feng said: “China and Iran are important economic and trade partners of each other. China resolutely opposes the United States imposing unilateral sanctions and the so-called long arm jurisdiction against Iran. Over a long period of time, the normal economic and trade and energy cooperation carried out by the international community, China included, with Iran within the framework of international law is reasonable and legal, which must be respected and protected. This is also a common stance taken by most members of the international community.”
These was no official response to the Chinese statement, yet a senior White House official told TV7 that China is trying to use the situation with Iran as a bargaining chip for negotiations on other, more substantive dealings, with the United States. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, termed the Chinese statements as “hollow threats” that will not impact U.S. decision making on vital security considerations.