Amid increasing tensions and on the day Iran announced it was set to breach a limit on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the 2015 multi-party nuclear deal, the Trump administration claimed it was sending the troops for “defensive purposes”.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behaviour by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” said US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan.
The US has accused Iran of being being behind the attacks last week on two oil tankers and released video footage it claimed showed Iranian troops at the scene of of one the attacks.
However the Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous, Yutaka Katada, disputed the US claims, as has Iran.
“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” he told reporters in Tokyo. “The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo.”
He added: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”
Iran has denied being responsible for the attacks, or for an earlier incident involving oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
After Mr Trump withdrew the US from the Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018, Washington launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran’s leaders, Reuters reported last year.
The plan, designed to ensure Iran does not restart a nuclear weapons programme, involves painting Iranian leaders in a harsh light, “at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements”.
On Monday, Iran’s atomic energy spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, suggested the country’s enrichment of enrichment could reach up to 20 per cent, just a step away from weapons-grade levels.
The Associated Press said it appeared Iran had begun its own high pressure campaign, after the US reimposed sanctions on Tehran, sending its economy into freefall. Europe has so far been unable to offer Iran a way around the US sanctions.
“If this condition continues, there will be no deal anymore,” said Mr Kamalvandi said.
He accused the Europeans of “killing time” as the clock runs down.
The Iranian announcement appeared timed to strike just as European foreign ministers met in Luxembourg. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, declined to specifically address the Iranian announcement.
Additional reporting by agencies
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies