May 17, 2019 / 10:15 AM / 5 days ago

Iranian missiles can hit U.S. ships in Gulf: Guards

DUBAI (Reuters) - A deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said short-range Iranian missiles could reach U.S. warships in the Gulf, and the United States could not afford a new war, the semi-official news agency Fars reported on Friday.

The comments added to days of sabre-rattling between Tehran and Washington, which has tightened sanctions and built up its military presence in the region alleging threats from Iran to its troops and interests.

Iran has accused the United States of “psychological warfare” and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said this week Tehran would not negotiate another deal after Washington quit a 2015 pact over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Even our short-range missiles can easily reach (U.S.) warships in the Persian Gulf,” Mohammad Saleh Jokar, the Guard’s deputy for parliamentary affairs, was quoted by Fars as saying.

“America cannot afford the costs of a new war, and the country is in a bad situation in terms of manpower and social conditions,” he added.

Separately, a senior Iranian military official accused U.S. President Donald Trump of dishonesty, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported on Friday.

Trump has said publicly he wants to pursue a diplomatic route after withdrawing from the 2015 deal and moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports this month.

“The actions of American leaders in exerting pressure and launching sanctions ... while speaking of talks, is like holding a gun at someone and asking for friendship and negotiations,” said Rasoul Sanai-Rad, a political deputy of the armed forces command, Mehr reported.

“The behaviour of American leaders is a political game which consists of threats and pressure while showing a willingness to negotiate in order to present a peaceful image of themselves and fool public opinion,” Sanai-Rad added.

Guards deputy Jokar was also quoted by Fars as making remarks apparently directed against any calls for talks by allies of pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani.

“The Western-leaning tendency in the country raises a war versus talks dilemma ... and is trying to impose new nuclear deals on the country,” he said.

Growing U.S. pressure on Iran has weakened Rouhani and made his hardline rivals more assertive.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Cawthorne

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