US defense chief pledges to counter Iran during visit to Bahrain | Joe Biden News
Lloyd Austin seeks to reassure Middle Eastern allies that President Biden’s administration is engaged in the region.
The top US defense official has pledged to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, as negotiations stall over Tehran’s tattered atomic deal with world powers, in comments that appeared to be aimed at reassuring US Arab allies in the Gulf.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s comments in Bahrain during the annual Manama dialogue on Saturday come as the Biden administration tries to revive the nuclear deal, which limited Iran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
His remarks also come after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, raising concerns among Gulf countries over Washington’s engagement in the region as US defense officials say they want to rotate their forces to counter the perceived challenges of China and Russia.
âThe United States remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And we remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue, âAustin said at an event hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“But if Iran is not prepared to engage seriously, then we will examine all the options necessary to ensure the security of the United States.”
The Pentagon chief said the United States would participate in good faith in indirect negotiations to resume the deal on November 29.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, although U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency claim Tehran had an organized weapons program until 2003.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Reshuffle of forces
Since then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, a series of increasingly serious incidents have hit the entire region. This includes drone and mine attacks targeting ships at sea, as well as assaults blamed on Iran and its proxies in Iraq and Syria. The United States also killed a senior Iranian general in Baghdad in early 2020, which saw Iran attacking American troops in Iraq with ballistic missiles.
Under Biden, US military officials envision a broader reshuffle of forces from the Middle East to other regions, although they still maintain a strong presence at bases in the region. Austin alluded to this in his remarks, saying, “Our potential punch understands what our friends can contribute and what we’ve prepositioned and what we can quickly pour in.”
âOur friends and foes both know that the United States can deploy overwhelming force when and where we choose,â Austin said.
It was not clear what effect Austin’s speech would have on allies in the Middle East, as it is not supported by any announcements of additional deployments or new arms sales in the region.
A senior US defense official, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said Austin is not expected to make any new commitments in the region during the trip.
Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, has been frustrated with Biden’s approach to the region.
The White House Biden has pressured Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record, including releasing political prisoners, such as women’s rights defenders, from prison.
Austin was due to visit Saudi Arabia in September, but the trip was postponed at the last minute. He will not be visiting Riyadh on this trip.