By Kent Klein
The Obama administration is brushing off Iran’s warning to keep a U.S. aircraft carrier out of the Persian Gulf, saying it shows the Iranian government’s “weakness.” White House officials say international sanctions against Tehran are having an effect.
President Barack Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said Tuesday the warning shows that the Iranian government is becoming increasingly isolated.
“I think it reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness,” said Carney. “It is the latest round of Iranian threats, and it is confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failures to live up to its international obligation.”
Iran’s army chief Tuesday warned the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis not to return to the Persian Gulf. He said Iran is ready to respond to what it sees as a threat.
Pentagon officials responded to the warning by saying the United States will continue to send warships to the region for regularly scheduled deployments.
The U.S. Navy said last week the carrier left the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz in a planned, routine operation.
Iran also threatened to close the strait, which is a major transport route for Middle East oil-exporting countries, in response to Western sanctions over its nuclear program.
Iran has been holding naval exercises near the strait.
White House spokesman Carney said the statements are an attempt to shift attention from Iran’s behavior and domestic problems.
“Iran is isolated and is seeking to divert attention from its behavior and domestic problems,” he said. “This is simply a measure of the impact that sanctions have been having on Iran and the broad international support for putting pressure on Iran and isolating Iran because of its refusal to live up to its international obligations.”
Carney said the sanctions have been affecting Iran’s economic health for some time.
“I stood before you in November and December and talked about the obvious impact that the isolation had been having on the Iranian economy and the effect that it had on things we were hearing from the Iranian leadership and on the economy itself,” said Carney. “So I think that continues, and I think this is more indication of that.”
Carney mentioned a story in Tuesday’s Washington Post newspaper, which says Iran’s currency dropped to new lows against the dollar after the U.S. placed sanctions on the Iranian central bank on Saturday.
The Post says the bank has flooded the local market with dollars, helping the Iranian rial to rebound somewhat.