The United States reiterated commitment to confronting Iran, even as the two are engaged in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his speech at the Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain.
The Pentagon chief said Washington remains “committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue. But if Iran isn’t willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all of the options necessary to keep the United States secure.”
He noted that the US continues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and its options are open if diplomatic solutions fail.
The defense secretary also stressed Washington's commitment to its relations with allies in the Middle East even after the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan and increasingly shifting its attention to confronting China.
But he pointed out that the “US cannot act alone” and called for “a broader view of Middle Eastern security” and the need to form “deeper multilateral partnerships to tackle shared threats.”
“Let's be clear,” he said. “America’s commitment to security in the Middle East is strong and sure.”
He said Washington will “continue to evaluate the right mix of forces to bolster our deterrence against Iran. We’ll protect our forces from attacks by Tehran or its proxies.”
Austin said his government is working “to end the tragic war in Yemen, to call on the Houthis to stop their attacks, both on Saudi territory and inside Yemen, and to end the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
Earlier this month, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that the talks on the nuclear agreement will start on Nov. 29 in Vienna.
Six rounds of talks were held between Iran and major international powers, in Vienna between April and June, in an attempt to revive the nuclear agreement.