The National - News

Iran named No 1 state sponsor of terrorism

Washington ramps up the diplomatic pressure on Tehran over missile tests and ‘hostile and belligeren­t behaviour’

- Taimur Khan Gulf Correspond­ent

ABU DHABI // The new US defence secretary James Mattis yesterday branded Iran “the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world” as Washington ramped up the diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

The United States had no plans to send more troops to the Middle East in response to Iranian provocatio­n, but it was capable of doing so at any time, Mr Mattis said yesterday in Tokyo.

“It does no good to ignore it,” he said. “It does no good to dismiss it and 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.

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

The US slapped new sanctions on Iran on Friday after its recent ballistic missile test. The US also reacted strongly to an attack by Iran-backed Yemeni rebels on a Saudi frigate last week by sending a destroyer, the USS Cole, to patrol the Bab Al Mandeb, the vital strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

“The internatio­nal community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behaviour,” White House national security adviser Michael Flynn said on Friday.

“The ritual of convening the UN Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough.

“The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligeren­t actions towards the US and the world community are over.”

The new sanctions, the first of Donald Trump’s tenure as president, came days after Iran fired a medium-range ballistic missile that Mr Flynn said was in defiance of the Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

Senior US officials said they did not affect commitment­s under the deal, which lifted other internatio­nal sanctions on Iran. Those announced on Friday target 25 people and bodies who senior US officials said were part of the procuremen­t network for Iran’s missile developmen­t programme.

Iran’s adversarie­s, including Arabian Gulf countries, have defence budgets many times that of Tehran and so its relatively cheap and increasing­ly sophistica­ted ballistic missile programme is key to Iran’s deterrence capabiliti­es.

One of the sanctioned entities, Royal Pearl General Trading, is based in Dubai. Iranian national Kambiz Rostamian, who the US treasury said lived in Dubai, is also on the sanctions list.

The UN Security Council has said that previous ballistic missile tests did not breach the resolution that enshrined the Iran nuclear accord, but former US president Barack Obama placed unilateral sanctions on Iran after ballistic missile tests in 2015 and last year.

Iran responded to the sanctions yesterday with defiant talk and with missile defence exercises.

The Iranian foreign ministry said Tehran would impose its own legal limits on Americans it said supported terrorists in the region.

The missile defence exercise in Semnan province aimed to display “the power of Iran’s revolution and to dismiss the sanctions”, according to Iran’s Revolution­ary Guards website.

The tests were to be of missiles with a 75-kilometre range and would display Iran’s “complete preparedne­ss to deal with the threats” from the US.

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