According to Iran’s state news agency, a U.S. navy aircraft carrier has fired a confrontational warning shot in the vicinity of Iranian vessels.
Is Trump Starting Another War?
The report from the IRNA news agency alleged that the USS Nimitz and an accompanying ship sailed near an Iranian oil offshore platform in the Persian Gulf and a helicopter from the ship hovered near the Iran-manned elite Revolutionary Guard.
The report said the incident took place on Friday afternoon and the U.S. Navy ships left the area soon after.
This latest agitation came three days after a U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots near another Iranian vessel, claiming unease with the proximity of the Iranian ship.
A senior lawmaker says the US is provoking Iran to leave the 2015 nuclear accord with world countries, but the Islamic Republic will not withdraw from the deal.
“It’s a conspiracy of the Americans who want to pressure the people and the government to get out of the JCPOA and pay the cost of stopping it,” Hossein Naghavi Hosseini told Tasnim news agency on Saturday.
Naghavi Hosseini, who is the spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s parliament, was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the nuclear accord is known.
On Thursday, the US Senate approved new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which Iranian officials said violated the JCPOA. The US Department of the Treasury on Friday imposed more embargoes on Iranian companies after the country launched a satellite carrier rocket.
Meanwhile, Iranian media reported on Saturday that the parliament has approved a special plan aimed at countering hostile US measures in the region.
Tensions have mounted between Washington and Tehran, which severed diplomatic ties after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, since President Donald Trump took office six months ago.
Naghavi Hosseini said the Americans continue to treat Iran with “enmity, spite and hostility” despite the nuclear agreement, adding the “Americans have become more emboldened after the JCPOA and their hostilities increased.”
“After the conclusion of the JCPOA, it was expected that the Americans would moderate their hostilities and enmities to some extent.
“But you saw that not only did this not happen and the hostilities were not tempered, but they also intensified these hostilities, so that since the implementation of the JCPOA, the Americans have imposed new sanctions or breached their covenant and the accord for more than 17 times,” he said.
The MP likened the US to “a brute that if you stand against it, it will also stand; if you follow it, it will run away but if you retreat, it will come after you and follow you up to your doorsteps.”
On Friday, the New York Times said Trump was frustrated that his national security aides had not given him any options on how the United States could leave the Iran nuclear deal.
The paper said the US president had instructed his aides to find a pretext for declaring that Iran was violating the terms of the accord.
American officials, it said, have already told allies they should be prepared to join in reopening negotiations with Iran or expect that the United States may abandon the agreement, as it did the Paris climate accord.
According to the NY Times, the US has begun raising with inspectors in Vienna the possibility of demanding access to military sites and if the Iranians balk, Washington could use it as a pretext to declare Tehran in violation.
Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, pictured below, said the new American administration is “a new trend which is engaged in designing measures with a more hardline approach than before against the Islamic Republic.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not only retreat in the face of threatening moves, but it will take harsher measures or proportionate with them,” he said on Saturday.
Jahangiri said a committee supervising the implementation of the JCPOA, which is headed by President Hassan Rouhani, is monitoring US moves, adding if the panel deems the Americans to be violating the accord, “the Islamic Republic of Iran will react severely.”
The JCPOA is an agreement reached between Iran and the five members of the UN Security Council, namely the US, Russia, Britain, France and China, plus Germany.
Naghavi Hosseini said, “Of the six members of the opposite side, one actor is an outlaw. But we will not ruin the game because of one actor … and we will rather deal with this offending actor.”
The lawmaker said a bill on “US adventurist and terrorist” moves in the region was passed on the Majlis floor on July 18, which designates US military forces and intelligence services as supporters of terrorist groups in the Middle East.
The US Senate has voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.
The Senate backed the bill by a margin of 98-2 on Thursday, Reuters reported.
The measure has angered Russian President Vladimir Putin who threatened to retaliate against the US.
The legislation will now be sent to President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto. He could veto the bill, but there is a chance that Congress could override his veto with a two-thirds vote.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already passed the bill on Tuesday in a 419-3 vote.
But the decision by House Republicans to impose new sanctions against Pyongyang had gotten pushback from senators, who were working on their own sanctions bill.
On Wednesday, US lawmakers reportedly reached a deal on the sanctions legislation after a push to add in North Korea had threatened to complicate the bill’s path forward.
“The Senate will move to approve the Iran and Russia sanctions it originally passed six weeks ago, as well as the North Korea sanctions developed by the House,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday evening.
Corker said lawmakers had “an agreement that will allow us to send sanctions legislation to the president’s desk,” after holding discussions with Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act – to which were attached the Russia sanctions – was first passed in a 98-2 vote in mid-June, but was held up in the House after Republicans proposed that the North Korea sanctions be included in the bill.
The new Senate legislation is the result of a congressional deal reached between Republicans and Democrats and is particularly aimed at punishing Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and the reunion of Crimea with Russia.
The reunion happened after about 97 percent voters of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea backed “going home” in a referendum on March 16, 2014 following a 23-year stay in Ukraine.
Speaking hours before the Senate passed the legislation on Thursday, Republican Senate hawk John McCain said, “The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy.”
‘We’ll have to retaliate’: Putin
Responding to the sanctions news, Putin said on Thursday Russia would decide on how to retaliate once it had seen the final text of the bill.
Speaking in Savonlinna, Finland, the Russian leader said that Moscow was “exercising restraint and patience, but at some moment we’ll have to retaliate. It’s impossible to endlessly tolerate this boorishness towards our country.”
Under the proposed bill, Trump is required to submit to Congress a report on his proposed actions that would “significantly alter” US foreign policy towards Russia.
The Trump administration has objected to this provision in the sanctions bill.
‘Trump could push for stronger Russia sanctions’
Earlier on Thursday, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said Trump could veto the pending legislation in order to push for stronger sanctions against Russia.
“He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians,” Scaramucci said.
Before the Senate vote on Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration support tougher sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran, adding, “We’re going to wait and see what that final legislation looks like and make a decision at that point.”
Since his inauguration on January 20, President Trump has adopted a hostile policy towards Iran.
He has repeatedly vowed to cancel the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, including the US, and his administration has imposed new sanctions on multiple Iranian individuals and entities.