The statement comes amid strained ties between Washington and Tehran, which further escalated last week when Iran downed a US military drone which the Islamic Republic claims violated its airspace. The US, in turn, insists that the unmanned aircraft was shot down over international waters.
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook has made it clear that war with Iran is “not necessary,” but said that Washington would go ahead with a military build-up in the Middle East.
“We are not looking for any conflict in the region”, he told AP news agency, adding that if the US is attacked, “we will respond with military force”.
Hook referred to US President Donald Trump, who he said wants to see “an international response of like-minded countries that could come together and contribute assets that could be used to enhance maritime security in the region”.
Repercussions of Iran’s Destruction of a US Drone
The interview comes as already-strained Washington-Tehran relations deteriorated further on 20 June, when Iran said that it had downed a US surveillance drone flying over Hormozgan Province after it violated the country’s airspace.
US Central Command claimed, in turn, that the drone was shot down while operating over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
Following the incident, Trump said he had called off a strike against Iran because the expected 150-person casualty rate was disproportional to the Iranians’ downing of a US unmanned aerial vehicle.
The US President also warned that an Iranian attack on “anything American” would be met with great and overwhelming force, up to “obliteration”.
New US Sanctions Against Iran
In a separate development, the US slapped new “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran over its alleged “hostile conduct”; the restrictive measures targeted Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and those “close to him” in a bid to cut them off from any financial sources, as well as eight senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded by tweeting that “sanctions aren’t an alternative to war; they ARE war” and that “short war” with Iran is an illusion.
Earlier, he told CNN that Trump’s threats to destroy the Islamic Republic are “certainly illegal” under international law.
“The United States is not in a position to obliterate Iran, they do not have the capability other than using prohibited weapons to do this,” Zarif pointed out.
He also recalled that the threat of war was illegal under the United Nations Charter, stressing that Iran did not seek war.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, described the White House as “mentally retarded”, claiming that Washington’s new sanctions against Iran were a sign of the Trump administration’s “despair”.
The relations between the US and Iran have been steadily deteriorating since Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last spring. Since then, in a succession of restrictive measures, Washington has subject almost all major sectors of the Iranian economy to sanctions.
In May 2019, Iran announced that it would partially suspend its obligations under the nuclear deal.
Since then, the US-Iran strife has significantly escalated, with Washington starting to build up its military presence in the Middle East, in what US National Security Adviser John Bolton called a clear message to Iran.
According to the Pentagon, an aircraft carrier strike group, Patriot missiles, B-52 bombers and F-15 fighters had been deployed to the region.