Republican Tom Cotton, from Arkansas, was unequivocal in his assessment of the situation in an interview conducted after the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force were sent to the Persian Gulf, with the USS Arlington and the a battery of Patriot missiles also scheduled to join them. Asked by Margaret Hoover during her Firing Line current affairs show on PBS whether he was confident the US would triumph in a possible conflict, he said: “Two strikes. The first strike and the last strike.” Mr Cotton was insistent he was not advocating war with Iran – but warned Tehran to avoid “provocation” against US interests in the region.
He said: “I’m simply delivering the message that if Iran were to attack the United States, it would be a grave miscalculation on their part and there would be a furious response.
“What I want is to have an outlaw regime change its behaviour, to rejoin the civilised world and stop supporting terrorism and trying to overthrow the governments of so many of its neighbours.
“Ultimately it’s up to the Iranian people and their leaders to decide how they’re going to govern their country, but with men like those in charge of Iran, I think we’re going to see what we’ve seen for the last 40 years, which is a revolutionary theological movement that’s hijacked the powers of a nation-state.”
The New York Times yesterday reported President Donald Trump was ready to deploy 120,000 US troops to the Middle East if Iran launches attacks on US forces in the region or goes through with its threat to resume work on nuclear weapons.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was said to be pushing an updated military plan to Mr Trump’s top security aids at a meeting last week.
The plan would include a commitment to a massive troop deployment if the Pentagon to counter perceived Iranian aggression.
Questioned about the possibility today, Mr Trump confused reporters by denying the report before adding: “Would I do that? Absolutely.”
Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since Mr Trump pulled out of 2015’s Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JPOCA), an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, with Washington imposing increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has officially stopped some commitments under the JPOCA with world powers after an order from its national security council, an informed official in the country’s atomic energy body told the ISNA news agency today.
Last week, Iran notified China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and re-imposed sanctions.
To compound matters, Saudi Arabia yesterday said armed drones had struck two oil pumping stations in the kingdom on Tuesday in what it called a “cowardly” act of terrorism two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
Asked about Sunday’s blasts, Mr Trump warned Iran would “suffer greatly” in the event of a conflict between the two countries, stressing there would be a “bad problem for Iran if something happens”.
Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency American employees from its diplomatic missions in Iraq on Wednesday in another show of concern about alleged threats from Iran.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said British officials are worried about the risk of a conflict between the US and Iran which neither side intends.
Mr Hunt told reporters in Brussels: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict.
“What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.”