Iranian leaders have reacted to Friday's US announcement for a planned new deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East to monitor threats from Iran after the Pentagon specifically blamed Tehran for ordering attacks on a Saudi oil pipeline and four tankers near the Strait of Hormuz — an order which US officials said came from "the highest level".
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday slammed the new deployment as “extremely dangerous... for international peace,” according to state news agency IRNA . “Increased U.S. presence in our region is extremely dangerous and it threatens international peace and security, and this should be addressed,” Zarif said.
And separately a top Iranian military general touted "secret weapons" that are capable of sinking US warships in the Persian Gulf.
According to Reuters, citing the semi-official news agency Mizan, General Morteza Qorbani, an adviser to Iran’s military command, issued the following threat:
America... is sending two warships to the region. If they commit the slightest stupidity, we will send these ships to the bottom of the sea along with their crew and planes using two missiles or two new secret weapons.
Currently the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group is operational in the region, along with B-52 bombers out of Qatar, and patriot missile batteries.
Other than Iran's arsenal of long-range ballistic missiles, underwater drone capabilities, and most notably recent claims of a domestic built stealth destroyer and a fleet of small stealth submarines, it is unclear what these "new secret weapons" could be, if they exist at all.
Last December Iran unveiled its first stealth destroyer in a televised ceremony wherein the warship was launched into operation in the Persian Gulf at a moment when tensions with the US were ratcheting up over new rounds of sanctions.
We noted Friday of the newly ordered 1,500 force deployment that given the original Pentagon plan reportedly pitched a total troop deployment of up to 10,000 additional forces to counter Iran in the Middle East, Trump's agreeing to a much humbler 1,500 appears a meager attempt to merely pacify the hawks without actually changing the playing field significantly. Or rather, to put up the pretense and appearance of "doing something" without actually substantively escalating at all.
The president himself seemed to all but admit this in passing remarks to reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Japan: “We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump said. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we’ll see what happens,” he added.
However, troop build-up in the region to any degree could prove explosive and extremely dangerous for the prospect of a broader conflagration, considering both the IRGC's recent terror designation, as well as Iran ally Syria coming under new chemical weapons scrutiny over fresh claims it used poison gas in a battle near Idlib on Sunday.