US steps up pressure on Iran over missile test

Mid-East state 'put on notice' as actions show it to be 'in defiance' of UN resolution

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said Iran has been "put on notice" for testing ballistic missiles, as his administration turned its focus to a key foreign policy area which he had vowed to address after taking office.

"Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!" Mr Trump said in a Twitter message yesterday morning.

"Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the US came along and gave it a lifeline in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion," he said in another tweet.

US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said Iran's actions showed it to be "in defiance" of the United Nations Security Council resolution passed after a nuclear deal was reached in 2015 between the Islamic republic and six nations, including the United States and Russia.

Mr Flynn's warning on Wednesday came a day after Mrs Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council that the missile test on Sunday was "absolutely unacceptable".

Beyond the tougher words, the administration did not offer details of what policy or military options it might be considering. An administration official, who asked not to be identified, told reporters afterwards that there are a range of options available to counter Teheran's actions.

Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan told the Tasnim news agency yesterday that the missile test was successful and that it was not a violation of the nuclear or any UN resolution.

Mr Flynn said it was "the latest of a series of incidents" in which Iran continues "to threaten US friends and allies in the region".

He cited attacks on Saudi and Emirati vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi militants trained and supported by Iran.

Mr Trump's election victory appears to be emboldening Republicans who have long criticised the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran but were stymied in their efforts to undermine it by the Obama administration. "Iran is rapidly taking over more and more of Iraq even after the US has squandered three trillion dollars there. Obvious long ago!" Mr Trump said on Twitter late on Wednesday.

Mr Flynn's comments came on the same day that Republicans in the House announced plans for legislation targeting Iran's support for "terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missile programme". Among other steps, the measure would impose new sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and against people who "knowingly aid" its missile programme. Similar legislation was previously introduced in the Senate.

During the campaign, Mr Trump called the nuclear accord "one of the dumbest deals ever" and said dismantling it would be a top priority. That rhetoric was tempered by Mr James Mattis, the new Pentagon chief, during his confirmation hearing last month.

"It's not a friendship treaty," Mr Mattis said at the time. "But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies."

Former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus, testifying to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, said ending the nuclear deal would leave the US isolated. He suggested Congress and the White House instead consider making a statement of national policy that Iran will not be allowed to enrich uranium to weapons grade.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'US steps up pressure on Iran over missile test'. Print Edition | Subscribe