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Aerial of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington DC, with I-395 freeway on the left, and the Air Force Memorial up middle.
The U.S. Department of Defense hit back at Russian officials who have criticized a U.S. plan to deploy more troops to the Middle East.
A Pentagon official told CNBC that the deployment is “not a provocation” and that it’s Russia that “seeks to revise the world order.”
Russia rebuked the U.S. after it announced on Monday a plan to send 1,000 extra troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. U.S. relations have deteriorated sharply with Iran since President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from an international nuclear accord with the country, and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Ostensibly, the decision to deploy more troops to the region comes after it accused Iran of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, although Iran denies the accusations.
Russia reacted angrily to the U.S.′ plans on Tuesday with officials, including the country’s deputy foreign minister, warning the U.S. that it was tantamount to a “military provocation. ” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged “all sides to show restraint.”
The Pentagon defended its decision to deploy the troops and said it was Russia that sought to destabilize the Middle East.
“This deployment is not a provocation, the additional troops are for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason from the Pentagon’s Europe public affairs unit told CNBC in an email Tuesday.
“Russia seeks to revise the world order and reject the international system that has enabled peace for decades. Russia has sought to exploit chaos and advance its influence, expanding beyond its near abroad. And it has done so with particular focus in the Middle East,” she added.
For the U.S., the Middle East “remains a vitally important region to our national security interests, where the Department (of Defense) strives to maintain a favorable balance of power, deny safe havens to terrorists, and secure critical trade routes and ensure freedom of navigation,” Gleason added.
The U.K., Russia, China, France and Germany brokered the Iran nuclear deal with the U.S. under former president Barack Obama, but it’s looking increasingly fragile as Iran threatens to breach its commitments.
On Monday, it said that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile, according to the 2015 deal.
Officials in Europe, China and Russia said this week that they hoped Iran would not break its commitments to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and reaffirmed their willingness to make the deal work.
It’s not the first time the U.S. and Russia have clashed over their foreign policies toward the Middle East in recent years. Both sides have fought in an awkward coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria with the U.S. having supported regime change in Syria while Russia propped up Syrian President Bashar Assad.