PHOTO: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — “Actions by Iran undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East”
The Trump Administration stepped up the rhetorical conflict with Tehran on Wednesday, “offically putting Iran on notice” following a ballistic missile test and alleged Iranian support of an attack on a Saudi military ship by Yemen’s Houthi group.
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn told a press conference. “The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East, and place American lives at risk.”
Flynn said the Obama Administration “failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions — including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms”. He noted that Trump had criticized agreements between Iran and the Obama administration as “weak and ineffective”.
However, Flynn — like other Administration officials — stopped short of saying that the US will withdraw from the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the 5+1 Powers.
Other officials have said the White House is considering additional sanctions to bolster the US financial restrictions that remain in place despite the nuclear deal.
One immediate effect may be the scuttling of this autumn’s arrangement for Iran to purchase 80 Boeing passenger aircraft in a $16.6 billion deal.
Missiles and an Attack in Yemen
Tensions have increased this week after US and Israeli officials told media outlets that Iran carried out another test of a ballistic missile, its first since July 2016.
The US and allies maintain that the launches violate a UN Security Council resolution, passed at the time of the nuclear agreement, that ban any testing of missiles with potential nuclear capability. Tehran says the missiles, with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,240 miles) are not able to carry nuclear warheads.
The White House held back from an immediate response on Monday, with press spokesman Sean Spicer saying, “We’re aware that Iran fired that missile. We’re looking into the exact nature of it.”
Iran did not acknowledge the latest test at first, but Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif repeated the Islamic Republic’s line on Tuesday, “Our missiles are for carrying conventional warheads and for the legitimate defense of the Islamic Republic.”
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan confirmed a test while repeating there was no violation of the Security Council resolution: “The recent test has been in line with our program, and we do not let any foreigner intervene in our defense affairs.”
In Parliament, 220 of 290 MPs released a statement praising the “missile defense” system as “indispensable to national security” and called for a strengthening of capabilities.
The Yemen Dimension
Flynn’s statement linked the missile issue to an attack by Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement, which controls the capital Sana’a and much of the country in a civil war with a Saudi-backed Government, on a Saudi frigate on Monday. The missile killed two members and wounded three others.
The attack was the second by the Houthis on a Saudi vessel since July.
Flynn spoke of “a series of incidents…in which Houthi forces that Iran has trained and armed have struck Emirati and Saudi vessels, and threatened U.S. and allied vessels transiting the Red Sea. In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten U.S. friends and allies in the region.”
Iran gives political support to the Houthis but has denied military backing of the movement.