Iran Slams U.S. After Middle East Troop Buildup Is Announced

LONDON — Iranian officials lashed out at the United States on Saturday after the Trump administration said it would allow the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan and deploy about 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.

“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,” Gen. Morteza Qorbani, an adviser to Iran’s military command, told the semiofficial news agency Mizan on Saturday.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also told the state news agency IRNA that the move to send troops to the Middle East was “extremely dangerous and it threatens international peace and security.”

“This should be addressed,” Mr. Zarif added.

The pending arms deal had drawn sharp criticism from American lawmakers angry over civilian deaths from the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. Analysts said that officials in Tehran were likely to see it as a further deterioration in relations between the two countries, already worsening since President Trump’s decision last year to leave the Iran nuclear deal.

In response to that decision, rather than exiting the deal, which is still supported by European nations, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this month announced a series of small steps to resume nuclear production restricted under the agreement. The White House then announced additional sanctions on Iran’s steel, aluminum, iron and copper sectors, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s exports.

The American troop increase is far less than the 20,000 forces that United States commanders in the region had sought. It includes 600 troops whose deployments will be extended, alongside 900 being newly sent to the Middle East.

Under White House plans revised after pressure from hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, if Iran were to accelerate work on nuclear weapons, defense officials envision sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

Still, Mr. Trump — who has been keen to disengage from conflict zones in the Middle East —was seen as unlikely to boost troops by more than 100,000, and Iran tends to exaggerate its successes when it comes to state-of-the art weaponry, according to experts.

Amid what many say are echoes of the buildup to the Iraq war in 2003, calls have intensified for Mr. Trump to walk away from the prospect of conflict with Iran. Trapped between the United States and trying to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive, European allies have also voiced opposition to a conflict.

And a few days ago, Mr. Trump himself sought to put the brakes on open confrontation, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, that he did not want to go to war with Iran.

The latest surge in tensions comes just more than a week after some small signs of de-escalation. United States officials presented evidence that Iran had been removing missiles from small boats, which had been seen as a potential threat to American naval ships in the Persian Gulf and nearby waters.

But on Friday, Defense Department officials accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of attacking four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

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