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

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.”

Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. (Supplied)
Updated 36 min 1 sec ago

Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

CAIRO: Here are key events in eight years of turmoil and transition in Egypt, leading up to a national referendum on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.

● Feb. 11, 2011: Autocrat Hosni Mubarak steps down after 18 days of nationwide protests against his nearly 30-year rule. The military takes over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the constitution after the uprising leaves hundreds of protesters dead in clashes with security forces.

● Nov. 28, 2011-Feb. 15, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats in multi-stage elections for the first post-Mubarak Parliament.

● June 30, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi takes office as Egypt’s first freely elected president.

● Aug. 12, 2012: Mursi removes the defense minister and military chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and replaces him with El-Sisi.

● Nov. 22, 2012: Mursi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, a move that sparks days of protests.

● Dec. 15-22, 2012: Egyptians approve a constitution drafted and hastily passed by Parliament amid protests and walkouts by other groups.

● June 30, 2013: On Mursi’s anniversary in office, millions of Egyptians begin days of demonstrations demanding his resignation. The military gives him 48 hours to reach an agreement with his opponents, but he vows to remain in office.

● July 3, 2013: El-Sisi announces Mursi’s removal.

● Aug. 14, 2013: More than 600 people, mostly Mursi supporters, are killed when police clear two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo. Mursi supporters retaliate by torching government buildings, churches and police stations. Hundreds more die in subsequent violence.

● Dec. 25, 2013: The government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

● May 26-28, 2014: Egyptians vote in a presidential election. El-Sisi wins with 96.9 percent of the vote.

● May 16, 2015: Mursi and more than 100 others are sentenced to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising.

● Oct. 2015: Egypt holds parliamentary elections, leading to an assembly packed with El-Sisi supporters.

● April 2, 2018: El-Sisi wins a second, four-year term in office, with more than 97 percent of the vote.
● Feb. 2019: Lawmakers submit proposed amendments to the constitution that allow El-Sisi to remain in power beyond his current second four-year term.

● April 10: President Donald Trump welcomes El-Sisi to the White House for a second official visit.

● April 17: The Parliament, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, overwhelmingly passes the proposed amendments.

● April 18: Egypt’s National Election Authority schedules three days of voting in a nationwide referendum on the amendments. The vote takes place Saturday through Monday.