The White House has issued a cryptic warning that the US will act against Iran unless it stops testing ballistic missiles and supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen, but declined to say what retaliatory actions the US would pursue.
Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, forcefully denounced Iran’s behaviour in his first public remarks since Trump took office.
He accused Iran of threatening US allies and spreading instability throughout the Middle East while faulting the Obama administration for doing too little to stop the Islamic Republic.
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” Flynn said from the White House podium.
On notice for what, Flynn didn’t say. Senior Trump administration officials said they were actively considering a “range of options” including economic measures and increased support for Iran’s regional adversaries. The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, declined repeatedly to say whether military action was being considered.
Later on Wednesday, Trump tweeted: “Iran is rapidly taking over more and more of Iraq even after the US has squandered three trillion dollars there. Obvious long ago!”
The warning is an early manifestation of Trump’s promise of a tougher American approach to Iran. Yet administration officials emphasised that their allegations were unrelated to Iran’s obligations under the Iran nuclear deal that President Barack Obama and world leaders negotiated. Though Flynn noted Trump has criticised that deal, officials declined to say whether Trump planned to follow through on his campaign pledge to renegotiate it.
The White House also faulted Iran for backing Houthi rebels in Yemen who on Tuesday claimed a successful missile strike against a warship belonging to a Saudi-led coalition fighting to reinstall Yemen’s internationally recognised government. The media arm of the Shiite rebels said the vessel was believed to belong to the Saudi Arabian navy.
The White House said the goal in putting Iran “on notice” was to signal to Tehran that it needed to rethink its behaviour. Flynn said Iran specifically violated the UN’s ban on “activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Iran’s Defense Minister General Hossein Dehghan has confirmed that Iran conducted a missile test, but did not say when the test was carried out or specify the type of missile. He insisted it wasn’t a violation of UN resolutions.