November 18, 2021
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Wednesday told reporters that Iran presents serious security and regional challenges that go beyond its nuclear program.
Speaking in Washington before his trip to the Middle East, Austin said “This trip comes at a time when Iran is stoking tensions in undermining stability in the region.”
The US defense chief also reiterated the Biden Administration pledge not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. “We remain deeply committed to preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. No problem in Middle East gets easier solved with a nuclear-armed Iran, and that’s why we fully support the president’s efforts to achieve a new diplomatic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.”
But Austin warned the Islamic Republic about threats it poses in the region. “I’m going to be very clear. We will defend ourselves and our partners and our interests against threats from Iran or its proxies,” he maintained.
Multilateral nuclear talks with Iran are scheduled to resume in Vienna on November 29 after Tehran walked away from negotiations in June. Meanwhile it has been enriching more uranium to higher purity, narrowing the window to accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.