Terrorist groups may use escalating tensions between the US and Iran as an opportunity to provoke a war between the two countries, Germany’s foreign minister warned.
Speaking during a panel discussion in Hamburg on Tuesday, Heiko Maas described the situation in the Middle East as “extremely dangerous” and urged the US and Iran to calm down.
“This is a region where terrorist groups are active. Terrorists may launch attacks to escalate violence and provoke a war,” Maas said.
“And it would not be only the US and Iran participating in such a war, but this would rapidly put the entire region in flames.”
Maas reaffirmed Germany’s continued commitment to a diplomatic solution to resolve disagreements with Iran over its nuclear program and its influence in the region.
Washington and Tehran have been escalating rhetoric against each other this month, following Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up the US military presence in the Persian Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.
Trump said the tightened sanctions were intended to push Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of the 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Trump withdrew the United States from the pact a year ago.
Last week, Washington pulled some diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad following attacks on four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
US officials briefed Congress about Iran on Tuesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan held the classified briefing the full House of Representatives after lawmakers, including Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, clamored for weeks for more information about escalating tensions with Iran.
The administration officials held a similar briefing, also behind closed doors, for the full Senate later on Tuesday.
At the closed-door sessions, they spelled out to lawmakers what they described as the imminent threat from Iran to US personnel in the Middle East. Several Democrats said they were skeptical about the extent of the threat.
Some House Democrats accused the administration officials of twisting intelligence to make the case for what they see as an aggressive response to any Iranian actions.
“In my opinion, there was not any information there that pointed to any reason why we should be engaging in talk of war with Iran,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Democrats also faulted Trump’s administration for, as they put it, lacking a long-term plan to deal with Iran now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement.
“They’re just hoping that in the end the Iranians decide to come to the table, without any clear plan on how that is going to happen,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a Foreign Relations Committee member, told reporters.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday rejected talks with the United States, after Trump said Iran would call and ask for negotiations “if and when they are ever ready.”
Anadolu Agency and Reuters contributed to this story.