The United States will respond with military force if Tehran attacks its interests, the U.S. special representative for Iran has warned, adding that actions recently taken by Washington in the Middle East had a "deterrent effect."
Brian Hook made the comments on May 30, as Saudi Arabia urged Arab nations to confront with "all means of force " recent attacks in the Persian Gulf that U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed on Iran.
Saudi leaders prepare to host two emergency summits of Arab and Sunni Muslim Gulf leaders in Mecca later in the day to discuss the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates' (U.A.E.) coast and a drone attack on Saudi oil installations by Yemen's Shi'ite Houthi rebels in recent weeks
Tehran has denied any involvement.
Relations between Iran and the United States have plummeted since Washington one year ago pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Tehran.
Since then, Washington has reimposed sanctions, stepped up its rhetoric, and beefed up its military presence in the Middle East, citing "imminent threats" from Iran.
Tehran dismisses the allegations.
"We have repositioned our military assets in the region to respond to these threats and we think that reposition of assets has had the desired deterrent effect and a disruptive effect on the regime’s risk calculations," Hook told reporters by phone.
Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" on Iran is working, he said, adding that the country and its proxies have become weaker as a result.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later accused the United States of "aggressive behavior."
"Region by region, state by state, people by people suffer from this brazen permissiveness," Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post.
The United States' Gulf allies have also stepped up pressure on Iran, with Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf saying on May 30 that the recent attacks in the region should be confronted "with all means of force and firmness."
Assaf was speaking in Mecca ahead of emergency summits of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the 22-nation Arab League.
Leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are also set to gather in Mecca on May 31 for talks expected to focus on Palestinian statehood.
During a visit to the U.A.E. on May 29, U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said that any attacks on U.S. interests or allies in the Gulf by Iran will draw a “very strong response” from Washington.
Meanwhile, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he believed that the recent deployment of a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region had "deterred attacks on our people in Iraq."
But he added that the situation "still remains tense" and that "the Iranian threat to our forces in the region remains."
Both U.S. and Iranian officials have said that they are not seeking a war.
U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on May 30 that he is ready to get along "even" with Iran, adding: "If Iran wants to talk, I’m available."
However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has rejected talks with Washington, saying that negotiating with the current U.S. administration would be “poisonous.”