US seeks ‘fallback’ Saudi bases in case of Iranian threats

The Wall Street Journal reported on plans for ports and air bases in the kingdom’s western desert, which the US military would seek to develop as positions to be used if war were to break out with Iran.

The US military is looking for fallback bases in Saudi Arabia to prevent its troops deployed there from becoming obvious targets in the event of tensions with Iran, a senior US military official said Thursday.

“We are not looking for new bases. I want to be clear on that,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command (Centcom), during a tour of the Middle East.

“What we would like to do, without shutting down these (current) bases …. is to have the ability to go to other bases to operate in a period of heightened risk,” he explained.

“These are things that any prudent military planner would want to do to increase their flexibility, to make it more difficult for the adversary to target them.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on plans for ports and air bases in the kingdom’s western desert, which the US military would seek to develop as positions to be used if war were to break out with Iran.

At the year’s end, the US military deployed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the region and had two B-52 bombers overfly the area.

The show of force was intended to deter Tehran from carrying out any attack on US forces on the first anniversary of the assassination by the United States of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

US President Joe Biden’s administration said Thursday it was ready to meet with Iranian officials under EU auspices to jumpstart diplomacy, and reversed Trump’s widely derided contention that the United Nations had imposed new sanctions on Iran.

Even close US allies had dismissed the argument and the United Nations said that no such additional sanctions had come into force.

In response to Biden’s statements, Iran said Friday it will “immediately reverse” actions in its nuclear programme once US sanctions are lifted, reacting coolly to Washington’s initial offer to revive talks.

Tehran also said Washington’s move was not enough to persuade Iran to fully respect the accord.

When sanctions are lifted, “we will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

Since Trump ditched the deal, Tehran has breached the accord by rebuilding stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, enriching it to higher levels of fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up production.

Tehran and Washington have been at odds over who should make the first step to revive the accord. Iran says the United States must first lift Trump’s sanctions while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal.

Adding to pressure for a resolution to the impasse, a law passed by the hardline parliament obliges Tehran on February 23 to cancel the sweeping access given to UN non-proliferation inspectors under the 2015 deal, limiting their visits to declared nuclear sites only.

The United States and the European parties to the accord have urged Iran to refrain from taking the step, which will complicate Biden’s efforts to restore the pact.

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