US Vice President Mike Pence vowed Saturday that Washington would ensure Iran could never threaten Israel with nuclear weapons.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Pence singled out Tehran as “the leading state sponsor of terrorism” and slammed it for continuously destabilizing the Middle East.
“Thanks to the end of nuclear-related sanctions under the [nuclear deal] Iran now has additional resources to devote to these efforts,” he said.
“Let me be clear again: Under President Trump the United States will remain fully committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon capable of threatening our countries, our allies in the region, especially Israel.”
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard meanwhile announced it will conduct military drills next week, despite repeated warnings from the United States and fresh sanctions over a ballistic missile test.
“The maneuvers called ‘Grand Prophet 11’ will start Monday and last three days,” General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the force’s ground units, said in a news conference.
He said rockets would be used without specifying which kind.
In early February, Iran conducted drills involving short-range missiles at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.
The Islamic republic said the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Iran’s “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington.
US President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions against Tehran’s weapons procurement network following a ballistic missile test on January 29.
“Iran would do well to look at the calendar and realize there’s a new president in the Oval Office. And Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president,” Vice President Mike Pence said earlier this month.
New Pentagon chief James Mattis, for his part, has branded Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.
Iranian officials have rejected the threats emphasizing that the missile program is purely defensive and would not be used to attack other countries or carry nuclear warheads.
On Thursday, an Iranian official claimed Israel’s nuclear arsenal was the biggest danger to world peace.
Israel is believed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear power but it has long refused to confirm or deny that it has such weapons.
A war of words has been escalating between Tehran and Washington since even before Trump took office in January.
Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the US and five other world powers reached a 2015 deal with Iran to lift sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Trump himself has repeatedly denounced the historic accord as “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.”