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Russian officials have rounded on Washington’s plans to send an extra 1,000 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, local news agencies reported Tuesday.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reportedly said the proposed increase of U.S. forces in the Middle East is a “military provocation” and a “matter of serious concern,” Russian news agency Interfax reported. He also warned the U.S. against escalating tensions in the Middle East.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Ministry was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Other Russian officials have also weighed in on the fractious situation, showing that Moscow is watching for the possibility of U.S. military action.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the Russian government called on “all sides to show restraint” and said the Kremlin would “rather not see steps that might escalate tensions in a turbulent region,” Interfax said. Meanwhile, Foreign Intelligence Chief Sergei Naryshkin told the news agency that a U.S. military presence would not help to stabilize the situation “in an explosive region.”
Russia’s reaction comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Monday that Washington was preparing to send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes.
He said that last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Washington blamed on Iran, “validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani responded earlier on Tuesday by saying the Islamic republic would not wage war against any nation, Reuters reported. On Monday, however, Iran said it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile according to the 2015 international nuclear deal.
Ryabkov said Russia was concerned about Iranian plans to accelerate the production of low enriched uranium but said the country would keep on trying to resolve the breakdown of the international nuclear accord, which the U.S. withdrew from in 2018. Peskov added Tuesday that Russia expects Iran to stay true to the nuclear deal and its commitments.
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, which was brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama alongside the U.K., China, France, Russia and Germany, sparked a downward trajectory for U.S.-Iranian relations.
Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and other critical sectors and threatened secondary sanctions on any country circumventing those sanctions. Like other nations in the nuclear deal, Russia has stood by the pact. Russia and the U.S. have clashed over other policy in the Middle East, most notably over Syria with Russia supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.