US Secretary of Defense: 'Iran will be held accountable for reckless behavior in the region'

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, during a military briefing in which they warned of Iran's behavior. (AP)
Updated 29 August 2018
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US Secretary of Defense: 'Iran will be held accountable for reckless behavior in the region'

  • A string of senior American officials offer fresh warnings about Tehran’s aggressive foreign policy
  • Trump's new top Iran advisor Brian Hook accuses Tehran of economic mismanagement

PENTAGON: The US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Iran would be “held accountable” for its reckless behavior in the region.

He was speaking as a string of senior American officials offered fresh warnings about Tehran’s aggressive foreign policy and the effect it has on destabilizing the Middle East. 

Mattis said that Iran had been “put on notice” that its “continued mischief” in the region — including its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen and supplying of missiles fired into Saudi Arabia, as well as threats to the Strait of Hormuz — would not be tolerated by the US and its allies.

The Defense Secretary went on to say that Iran was the “single biggest destabilizing element in the Middle East region.”

In Washington, Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s newly appointed special representative for Iran, said Tehran’s policy of destabilizing its neighbors  come at the expense of the Iranian people.

Speaking at an event at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank, the envoy highlighted the vast sums spent by Iran on funding Hizbollah and other proxy groups across the Middle East. Slogans making similar points have been chanted at anti-regime protests in Iran in recent months. The protests have intensified as Iran plunges further into an economic crisis exacerbated by a return of tough US sanctions after Donald Trump pulled out of a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

“The regime’s economic mismanagement has put the country in a tailspin,” Hook said. “The rial’s value has collapsed in the past year. A third of Iranian youth are unemployed. A third of Iranians now live in poverty.

“Regime leaders should feel painful consequences of their violence, bad decision making and corruption,” Hook added in reference to the sanctions.

Speaking at the same event, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said Iran continued to be the primary source of instability in the Middle East. 

Matiss made his comments at an extended press briefing at the Penatgon, during which various issues across the region were discussed.

When questioned about chemical weapons use in Syria, Mattis said that the US had recently discussed the use of chemical weapons in the country with Russia, after media reports that Syria was moving chemical weapons into a rebel-held area the government seeks to recapture.

“You have seen our administration act twice on the use of chemical weapons,” Mattis told reporters. "I will assure you that (the) Department of State has been in active communication, recent active communication, with Russia to enlist them in preventing this ... The communication is going on.”


Extremists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor

Updated 16 November 2018
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Extremists kill 9 Syria regime fighters near Idlib: monitor

  • Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests
  • Extremist groups attacked government forces in the northwest of Hama province near a planned buffer zone

BEIRUT: Extremists on Friday killed nine Syrian regime fighters near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major rebel bastion, a monitor said.
A September deal between government ally Russia and opposition backer Turkey aimed to set up a de-militarised zone around the northwestern region of Idlib to protect it from a regime assault.
But its implementation has been stalled since extremists who hold around 70 percent of the planned buffer area failed to withdraw by mid-October, and sporadic clashes have rocked the area since.
Early Friday, extremist groups attacked government forces in the northwest of Hama province near the planned buffer zone, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Nine regime fighters and five assailants were killed” in the attack, causing government forces to respond with artillery fire, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The attackers included the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen group, which has publicly rejected the Russian-Turkish deal, he said.
The lion’s share of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate.
Under the September 17 deal, all fighters in the zone were supposed to withdraw their heavy weapons and militants including HTS and Hurras Al-Deen were supposed to leave.
On Thursday, Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized “sporadic clashes,” as well as “provocations” by HTS in northwestern Syria.
Late last month, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Idlib deal, and criticized Turkey for shortcomings.
He said heavy weapons had not been withdrawn and accused Turkey of not wanting to “respect its obligations.”
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.