WASHINGTON - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday the presence of foreign forces in the Persian Gulf area would create “insecurity in the region.”
“Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” Rouhani said in a live broadcast on state television. The Iranian leader said he plans to present at the United Nations a regional cooperation plan for peace.
On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to send additional U.S. military forces and air defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, saying it is the administration’s latest attempt to “circumvent” Congress.
“President Trump’s plan to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and UAE, and to deploy additional U.S. forces to the region is the latest outrageous attempt by the Trump administration to circumvent the bipartisan, bicameral will of Congress,” she said in a statement. “These unacceptable actions are cause for alarm.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had a state visit at the White House Friday, said his country will not be pulled into a military conflict in Iran with the U.S. Morrison said Australia’s commitment in the Gulf is limited to freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.
US forces 'defensive in nature'
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced Trump’s decision to send the forces and equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE Friday night at the Pentagon.
Esper said the forces would be “defensive in nature.” He added that the U.S. was responding to requests from Saudi and United Arab Emirates officials to improve their air and missile defenses after last weekend’s attacks on Saudi Arabian oil installations. U.S. officials have said Iran was responsible, an allegation that Tehran denies.
The September 14 assault exposed the vulnerability of the region’s oil facilities to drone and cruise missile attacks.
Details regarding the U.S. deployments were to be discussed over the weekend and released in the coming week, Dunford said Friday.
“Secretary (Mike) Pompeo just came back this morning, and the Saudis asked for enhanced capabilities,” Dunford said. “We haven’t decided on specific units,” but those chosen would help enhance the countries’ air missile defenses.
Pelosi said in her statement that the House and Senate had passed bipartisan legislation months ago to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE, as well as condemn the Saudis’ involvement in Yemen, Pelosi said.
“Once again, President Trump is turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s continued violence against innocent Yemenis, as well as its horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its gross abuses of human rights, which represent a moral and humanitarian crisis,” she added.
Hours after the U.S. announced the deployment, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, warned that his forces “are ready for any scenario.” Salami added: “If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them.”
Also late Friday, the United Nations announced that it has sent a four-member team of international experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate the attacks on the oil installations.
Earlier, Trump announced new sanctions against Iran’s national bank Friday, further escalating economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, but pulling back from any direct military action.
“I think the sanctions work,” Trump said during a joint White House news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Trump also said “the military would work, but that is a very severe form of winning.”
But Trump said he was not planning a military response to the attacks, telling reporters in the Oval Office, “the strong person approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint.”
Trump warned, however, that “Iran knows if they misbehave, they’re on borrowed time.”