…As Russia contests EU decision that Nazi-Soviet pact led to World War II***
The U.S. will send additional troops to the Middle East in the wake of drone strikes on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump had approved the deployment of additional troops of a defensive nature, Esper said at the Pentagon.
Yemen’s Iran-linked Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks on major Saudi oil facilities in the eastern province of Buqyaq.
But Saudi Arabia and the United States suspect that Iran is behind the strikes, which at least initially put a halt to about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output.
“All indications are that Iran was responsible for the attack,” Esper said.
Investigations by U.S. and Saudi investigative teams indicated that the weapons used were Iranian-produced and not launched from Yemen, Esper asserted.
He spoke of “Iran’s significant escalation of violence.”
To prevent further escalation, Saudi Arabia had requested international support to help protect the kingdom’s critical infrastructure, Esper said.
The United Arab Emirates had also requested support.
The US forces being sent to the region will primarily be focused on air and missile defence.
US Army Chief, General Joseph Dunford did not give the number of troops involved, but said they would not be in the thousands.
Dunford said more details would be made public next week.
Esper said Trump had made it clear the US does not seek conflict with Iran, but stressed that “we have many other military options available should they be necessary.”
Earlier Friday, the US president announced new sanctions on the Iranian central bank and the country’s sovereign wealth fund, in what was touted as an effort to further restrict cash flows to the country.
Trump insisted he did not want to launch military strikes against Iran, noting that he could do so at any time in the future and there was no need to rush.
“Iran knows if they misbehave they are on borrowed time,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “I’m not looking to do that if I can,” he said about military strikes. “I think restraint is a good thing,” Trump added, noting he believed it demonstrated “strength.”
Washington has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and sent more troops and military assets to the region, to back up its substantial forces already based in Arab Gulf monarchies.
Iran has denied involvement in the oil tanker attacks and also rejected accusations that it was behind the drone strikes on the Saudi oil plants.
In the meantime, Russia on Friday contested the position of a recently adopted European Union’s (EU’s) resolution that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union “paved the way for the outbreak of World War II”.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the European Parliament resolution, saying it was politicised revisionism.
He noted that the text did not mention Western powers’ 1938 Munich Agreement, which enabled Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
“The European Parliament marked yet another outrageous attempt to equate Nazi Germany – the aggressor country – and the Soviet Union, whose peoples, at the cost of huge sacrifices, liberated Europe from fascism,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Nazi-Soviet pact is rarely discussed in today’s Russia, whereas the Allied – and particularly Soviet – victory over Nazi Germany, ending the war in Europe, remains a much celebrated source of national pride.
The EU resolution, adopted on Thursday, said the pact set out to divide Europe “between the two totalitarian regimes” of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
The pact is commonly known for the diplomats who signed it in Moscow as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Historians say that Soviet leader Josef Stalin used the pact as an opportunity to annex territories that, before the 1917 communist revolution, had belonged to the Russian empire. As Nazi Germany expanded into western Poland, the Soviet Union occupied Baltic territories and eastern Poland.
Russia has preserved the Soviet position that the pact was a necessary evil, an attempt to prevent the Nazi offensive into the Soviet Union – which nevertheless came two years after the signing, when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.