Iran quadruples uranium-enrichment production as USA tensions heighten

Saul Bowman
May 24, 2019

'If the Iranian threats against American personnel andinterests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response...

Before Tuesday's hearing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted he would "explain the prudent steps we're taking to deter violence, protect American interests and support the fearless Iranian people".

On Monday, he said the U.S. has no indication of hostile Iranian intentions.

Pompeo and Shanahan are believed to have shared intelligence that blamed Tehran - enemy number one for Trump - for security incidents involving US-allied Arabs.

This month, officials in the United Arab Emirates also alleged that four oil tankers were sabotaged; Iran-backed rebels launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, an idea dismissed by Tehran.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are allied with Iran and are being hit hard by US-backed Saudi air strikes, claimed responsibility last week for a drone strike on a major east-west pipeline in the kingdom, which was forced to shut down temporarily.

He added that Iran "has been waging a kind of low-level war against the US for 40 years", reminding host Harris Faulkner of the Reagan administration's decision to "re-flag" oil tankers in the Persian Gulf to deter action by Iran in the late 1980s.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the USA military was creating risks by crowding ships and aircraft into the region, although Iran doesn't intend to attack anyone.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran deal in 2018.

Shanahan's remarks pointed to an easing of tensions between the two sides, but he said the threats have not been eliminated. In less than a year Washington unveiled massive batches of sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, targeting Iran's financial, transport, and military sectors. The Independent cited Iranian officials who insisted that the uranium would only be enriched to 3.67 percent purity.

Mr Trump earlier this week threatened to meet provocations by Iran with "great force", but he also said he was willing to negotiate.

"Iran does need to think long and hard about anything that they may do from this point on", Chabot said.

Trump restored United States sanctions on Iran a year ago and extended them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said, "What I learned from the briefing is that the Iranians are no closer to talking than ever before".

Democrats also faulted Trump's administration for, as they put it, lacking a long-term plan to deal with Iran now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement, Reuters reported. "And that remains my biggest concern", Smith said.

Republicans emerging from the classified presentation defended Trump's moves as necessary while tamping down talk of direct military conflict with Iran or even war. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called "a game-changer".

"This briefing was all about tactics, not about strategy".

The officials arrived on Capitol Hill as questions mounted over Mr Trump's tough talk on Iran and policy shifts in the region. "You can not threaten any Iranian and expect them to engage".

But Zarif has proposed a swap of prisoners, a step some observers say could offer a path to resume at least low-level dialogue to ease tensions.

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