Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks to Department of Defense officials during a visit by United States President Joe Biden to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on February 10, 2021.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned those responsible for last week’s missile strike against an Iraqi base housing American troops.
“The message to those who would launch such an attack is that we must do what is necessary to defend ourselves,” Austin said in an interview with ABC on Sunday.
“We will strike if we believe we must do it at a time and place of our choosing. We are calling for the right to protect our troops,” he said, adding that the US is the intelligence community with its Iraqi partners still check.
Defense officials previously said the attack had typical features of a strike by Iranian-backed groups. Iran has refused to participate.
When asked whether Iran would see a possible US reaction as an escalation of tensions, the new Pentagon chief and retired four-star army reiterated that Washington would do everything possible to safeguard American and American interests to protect the region.
“What they [Iranians] From this, in turn, it should follow that we will defend our troops and our response will be thoughtful. It will be appropriate, “said Austin.” We would hope that they choose to do the right things, “he added.
On Sunday, the US military’s central command, which oversees the wars in the Middle East, flew its fourth bombing mission into the region.
The Show of Force mission included two B-52H Stratofortress bombers alongside aircraft from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar at various points to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the US military’s commitment to security in the region” .
Last month, Iran declined an invitation from the world powers that had signed the 2015 nuclear deal to discuss the regime’s possible return to the negotiating table. This was a major setback to the Biden government’s efforts to revitalize the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The White House said the Biden administration was disappointed with Iran’s decision to skip the informal meeting but would “re-engage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to JCPOA commitments.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the meeting of the National Combat Board with Coronavirus (Covid-19) on November 21, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.
Iranian Presidency Flyer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Biden’s government has previously stated that it intends to revive the nuclear deal but will not suspend sanctions until Tehran returns to compliance. Tehran has refused to negotiate as long as the US sanctions remain in place.
The 2015 JCPOA brokered by the Obama administration lifted sanctions against Iran, which had paralyzed its economy and roughly halved its oil exports. In exchange for billions of dollars in sanction relief, Iran agreed to dismantle part of its nuclear program and open its facilities to wider international inspections.
The US and its European allies believe Iran has ambitions to develop an atomic bomb. Tehran has denied this claim.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump kept an election promise and withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in what was dubbed the “worst deal ever”. After Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories to the pact have tried to keep the deal alive.
Washington’s tense relationship with Tehran deteriorated several times under the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on Hurricane Michael in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on October 10, 2018.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
People gather to protest the US air strike in Iraq that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who led the elite quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on January 6, 2020 in Sanaa, Yemen.
Mohammed Hamoud | Andalou agency | Getty Images
Soleimani’s death led the regime to further reduce compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January 2020, Iran said it would no longer curtail its uranium enrichment capacity or its nuclear research.
In October, the United States unilaterally imposed UN sanctions on Tehran as part of a snapback process that other members of the UN Security Council had previously stated that Washington was not empowered to carry out because it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.
A month later, a top Iranian scientist was murdered near Tehran, leading the Iranian government to claim that Israel, with US support, was behind the attack.
A view shows the location of the attack in which well-known Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed outside of Tehran, Iran on November 27, 2020.
WANA via Reuters
In the summer of 2019, a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf set the US and Iran on the way to a more intense confrontation.
In June 2019, US officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the plane was over its territory. That strike came a week after the US blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.
In June, the US imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders who were held responsible for shooting down the drone. The measures were also aimed at blocking financial resources for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Tensions rose again in September 2019 when the US blamed Iran for strikes in Saudi Arabia at the world’s largest crude oil processing plant and oil field. The strikes forced the kingdom to close half of its manufacturing operations.
The event sparked the largest surge in crude oil prices in decades and renewed concerns about a burgeoning conflict in the Middle East.
The Pentagon described the strikes in the Saudi Arabian oil factories as “refined” and represented a “dramatic escalation” of tensions in the region.
Iran claims all along that it is not behind the attacks.