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US tensions with Iran highest in 30 years: Former NATO chief

US tensions with Iran highest in 30 years: Former NATO chief

US tensions with Iran highest in 30 years: Former NATO chief
June 23
18:53 2019

Tensions between the United States and Iran have reached the highest level in the past three decades, a former top NATO commander says, warning that a military conflict is still possible unless the two sides sit down for talks.

James Stavridis, a retired American admiral and former NATO supreme commander, made the comment in an interview with US media in New York on Sunday, repeating US claims that the tensions stem from Tehran's “bad behavior” rather than Washington's interventionist policies.

He likened the situation to what North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has done in response to excessive demands by Washington over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“Tensions are higher than I’ve seen them in 30 years in the Gulf between the US and Iran,” Stavridis said. “Essentially Iran is lashing out with bad behavior, much like Kim Jong-un of North Korea does.”

The former NATO chief also claimed that US forces and Iran's military were likely headed for conflict unless Tehran returned to the negotiating table.

“The strikes, I think, are on hold at the moment,” Stavridis said, referring to reports that US President Donald Trump had called off a military strike on Iran at the last moment after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) downed a US spy drone in Iranian airspace on Thursday.

“But Iran needs to understand that this Administration is very serious about wanting to change Iranian behavior. Until [Iran] changes course, they are headed for a collision,” Satvridis further claimed.

He defended Trump's decision, amid criticism by Iran hawks in Washington that he is too soft on Tehran.

“I think [the president's decision] allows a moment for both sides to realize that we’re headed into a true confrontation which could result in ships sinking, could result in the closing of the Strait of Hormuz,” the admiral continued.

“Neither side has an interest in doing that,” Stavridis said. “I hope the Iranians will take advantage of the fact that the President held back and will come to negotiate with [Iran], which is an offer the President correctly put on the table.”

Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated after Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticisms.      

The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washington's exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and sending military reinforcements, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, to the Persian Gulf region.

The IRGC Aerospace Forces downed a US Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk over the territorial waters off the coastal province of Hormozgan.

The unmanned US aircraft was shot down by Iran’s indigenous Khordad 3 air defense system after it breached the country’s airspace on a spying mission despite the IRGC’s numerous warnings.

Following the incident, Trump reportedly approved a military strike against Iran, but cancelled it 10 minutes before the attack was going to be launched.

Tehran wrote to the United Nations in condemnation of the drone intrusion, calling on the world body to confront Washington’s destabilizing actions.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly announced that Iran's military activities are solely for defensive purposes and posed no threat to other countries.

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