Tuesday, February 23, 2021

An American general calls on Iran to “refrain from provocation” and says that Washington is ready for any eventuality


The commander of US forces in the Middle East, General Kenneth McKenzie, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, called on Iran to refrain from any provocation as Washington intensifies its efforts to save the nuclear deal.

“I think this is an appropriate time for everyone to act with caution and caution, and anticipate what will happen,” the commander of the US Central Command (Centcom) said during a visit to the Sultanate of Oman on Sunday.

But he stressed that “despite this, I think we will be prepared for any eventuality.”

In recent weeks, the administration of US President Joe Biden, European powers and Iran have strengthened their attempts to revive the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program concluded in 2015, which appeared to be on the verge of collapse after Donald Trump withdrew from it.

And on Sunday, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, announced after a visit to Tehran that a “temporary solution” would be reached that would allow the agency to continue inspections in Iran, despite Tehran beginning to reduce the work of international inspectors as of Tuesday.

The American general urged Iran not to carry out any “nefarious activities”, in an attempt to rebuild confidence, saying, “I think they want to be recognized as a responsible member and a stabilizing factor in the region.”

The United States accuses Iran of destabilizing the region through financial and military support for groups loyal to it, especially in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Washington also blamed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for disrupting maritime traffic in the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf in 2019, which is the corridor through which a fifth of global oil production passes daily.

The Strait of Hormuz was a major focus of the American general’s visit to Amman, which was officially aimed at establishing contacts with the new Chief of Staff of the Omani Forces, Major General Abdullah bin Khamis Al Raisi.

He visited a naval base in the northern Khasab region that monitors shipping traffic in the strait, and flew by helicopter towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, about 55 kilometers from the nearest point on the Omani coast.

“We were about 28 miles (45 kilometers) away (…) and we were looking towards Qeshm Island,” he said, adding, with a smile, “It was a foggy day and I couldn’t see it.”

“Ready for anything”

The visit passed peacefully, but the US military official did not rule out that Tehran would try to take revenge again for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US air strike in Baghdad in January 2020.

“I think there is still a risk that this is an act that is being planned,” he said.

“We are constantly evaluating the issue of protecting our forces here in the region. We look at that very seriously, so I am sure that we are ready for anything,” he said.

And last February, an account linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted on Twitter a call to avenge Soleimani that appeared to target former US President Donald Trump.

In recent months in Iraq, several missile strikes have targeted military bases used by the US military, which Washington has said were pro-Iranian factions.

The Sultanate of Oman is an ally of the United States, as is the case with other Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, and its forces have several air bases in the country and use the southern port of Salalah.

But Oman, with a population of 4.5 million, is also a neighbor to Iran and has played an important role as a mediator in the nuclear talks that led to the 2015 deal. Sanctions on Tehran have affected Muscat’s economy and its trade sector.

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq ascended the throne in January 2020 after the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos, the founding father of the modern Sultanate of Oman.

Qaboos transformed the former Arabian peninsula into a modern state with a neutral policy of non-interference in the affairs of neighboring countries, a strategy that won it respect in the region and beyond.

Sultan Haitham made several changes to the government, including changes in the military leadership since he came to power, but he pledged to maintain the Sultanate’s policy of neutrality.



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