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Mattis: Iran Primary State Sponsor of Terrorism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Defense Secretary James Mattis and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. Reuters

Washington- Iran is continuing to behave as an exporter of terrorism and still sponsors militant activity, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Friday on his first trip to London since taking the Pentagon’s top job.

Asked during a joint news conference with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon about comments Mattis made in 2012 that the three primary threats the United States faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Mattis told reporters that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since.

“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Mattis said.

The Trump administration is seeking to challenge Iran by providing more military assistance to its allies in the Gulf and improve military relations with Gulf states.

The US State Department announced on Thursday that Washington would resume the sale of fighter jets to Bahrain that had been suspended by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

Sources at the White House also expected resumption of military sale to Saudi Arabia mainly after the successful talks that Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense held with President Donald Trump recently.

During his press conference on Friday, Mattis signaled Washington might soon decide how to respond to what it says are Russian violations of a Cold War-era arms control agreement, saying the United States was conferring with allies.

Washington and Moscow have long questioned each other’s commitment to the INF treaty, which banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km.

The United States has accused Moscow of developing and fielding a ground-launched cruise missile, in violation of its INF Treaty obligations.

Vice Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva said in March that the Russian system presented a risk to most US facilities in Europe.

Mattis, said Trump’s administration was still formulating policy on the matter.

“On the INF issue, we’re in consultation with our allies and we are still formulating a way ahead. In fact, it will be addressed, I think, very, very soon as a matter of highest-level concern,” Mattis told the joint news conference.

Fallon acknowledged the INF treaty came up in his discussions on Friday with Mattis and said the matter should also be taken up by NATO.

“We look forward to the more formal response from the United States and we do think that is something that needs to be taken forward – not just by the United States but by NATO generally, once we have those violations confirmed,” Fallon said.

Neither Mattis nor Fallon elaborated. In the United States, such compliance issues are usually handled by the State Department.