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Tough talk as military exercises get underway in Iran


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Tough talk as military exercises get underway in Iran



  • Jim Mattis not planning to boost troop numbers in the Middle East
  • US imposes fresh sanctions
  • Tehran denounces them as “illegal”


Military exercises have got underway in Iran.

The country’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC):http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7064353.stm, a branch of the armed forces, say the exercises show Tehran is prepared to confront the threat posed by what are described as “humiliating sanctions” imposed by the US on Friday.

Tehran fired a ballistic missile on January 29.



What the US says



The US Defence Secretary says he is not planning to boost troop levels in the Middle East, despite rising tension with Iran.

Jim Mattis has warned, however, that the world would no longer ignore Tehran’s activities.



What did Mattis say?



That putting Iran “on notice” was worthwhile, given its “behaviour”.

“As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and I think it is wise to make certain that Iran recognises that what it is doing is getting the attention of a lot of people,” Mattis told journalists in Toyko, where he is on a visit.

He firmly played down any idea of a military build-up.

“I don’t see any need to increase the number of forces we have in the Middle East at this time. That’s not on the cards right now.”

“We always have the capability to do so. But, right now, I don’t think it is necessary.”

Mattis also said ignoring Iran’s behaviour – something former President Barack Obama’s critics routinely accused him of doing – won’t work.

“It does no good to ignore it, it does no good to dismiss it,” Mattis said, without citing Obama or his policies.



The background



President Donald Trump has vowed a more aggressive policy against Tehran.

His administration is warning of concrete action if Iran does not curb its ballistic missile programme and continues what officials say is its support for regional proxy conflicts.



Aren’t there fresh sanctions against Iran?



Yes.

Washington announced them on Friday.

Two days beforehand, the Trump administration had “put Iran on notice” following a ballistic missile test.



Has the US done anything else?



Yes.

Washington has already sent a Navy destroyer to patrol off the coast of Yemen.

Officials say this is to protect waterways from Houthi militia fighters, who are aligned with Iran.

Pentagon officials could also give greater priority to rotating aircraft carriers through the Gulf. There are currently none there.



Concerns about the Gulf



The US Navy believes having a robust presence helps deter any moves by Iran to block the strategic waterway.

In 2008 and 2010, Iran threatened to disrupt oil shipping in the Gulf by shutting the Strait of Hormuz, if there were any attacks on its nuclear sites.



What has the White House said?



That while the latest sanctions are a reaction to recent events, they have been under consideration before.

Officials have also said that the landmark 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme is not in the best interests of the United States.



What has Iran said?



It has denounced the sanctions as illegal.

Speaking on state television, foreign ministry officials said they will impose legal restrictions on US individuals and entities helping “regional terrorist groups”.

Those affected under the sanctions cannot access the US financial system or deal with US companies.

They are also subject to secondary sanctions, meaning foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them or risk being blacklisted by the US.



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