Russia wants US to reverse ‘provocative plans’ to deploy more troops in Middle East in stand-off with Iran

By bne IntelliNews June 18, 2019

Russia told the US on June 18 to pull back from what it described as provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East.

Washington should also desist from actions that looked like a deliberate effort at provoking war with Iran, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov added in remarks provided to Russian news agencies following an announcement from acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan a day earlier who said the Pentagon was set to order around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes.

Ryabkov said Moscow had many times cautioned Washington and its regional allies about the “unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region”.

“Now what we see are unending and sustained US attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way. They [these actions] cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war,” Ryabkov was cited as saying, adding that if Washington did not want war then it had to show that was the case, he said.

Meanwhile, both Russia and Germany urged Iran to stay in the nuclear deal—the signatories to which, since the May 2018 unilateral withdrawal from the accord by the Trump administration, have remained Iran, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The accord is supposed to protect Iran from heavy economic sanctions in return for compliance with measures that block all pathways to the potential development of a nuclear weapon by Tehran, but de facto it is almost defunct given that the US has introduced its heaviest ever sanctions against Iran, scaring traders and companies around the world from doing business with Iran for fear that they would be penalised with secondary sanctions.

The Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on June 18 that Russia believed it was in Iran’s interests to stay in the nuclear deal despite the difficulties.

He said: "Actually that’s what was discussed during the meeting two days ago in Bishkek [in Kyrgzstan] between [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani—Iran staying in the nuclear deal and keeping its commitments to its obligations."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on June 18 that Germany was doing all it can to defuse heightened tensions with Iran in a peaceful way, but that Tehran must stick to the 2015 international nuclear agreement. “We are pushing for Iran to keep to [the nuclear pact]—if that is not the case, there will of course be consequences.”

Donald Trump is attempting to crush Iran’s economy to the point where the Iranians come to the table and agree tougher concessions on their nuclear development programme and on activities in the Middle East such as support for various militant groups. The other signatories are not offering Iran enough economic protection from Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, according to Iran’s leadership, meaning that if things do not change soon Tehran may opt to resign from the accord, deeming it not worth the paper it’s written on.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on June 18 that Washington was "considering a full range of options" on Iran, including a military response, given the worsening situation, including attacks on oil tankers, blamed on Iran by the US but described by the Iranians as false flag operations designed to provoke conflict

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, while meeting the Chinese ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, on June 17 said that Tehran is looking for a way to salvage the nuclear deal, Tasnim News Agency reported.

“The role of China in this regard is critical, and Beijing can provide considerable help for implementation of commitments of the [nuclear deal parties]” he added.

Hitting out at the US, Rouhani also said: “Unilateralism is opposed by both our countries and it is a wrong and dangerous path for the region and international community.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese government’s top diplomat warned on June 18 that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East.

Speaking in Beijing after meeting Syria’s foreign minister, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said the US should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang added.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang also said. “Any unilateral behaviour has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang remarked that the nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve the Iran nuclear issue. “We understand that relevant parties may have different concerns but first of all the comprehensive nuclear deal should be properly implemented,” he added. “We hope that Iran is cautious with its decision-making and not lightly abandon this agreement.”

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