CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie asserted that we “don’t seek conflict with Iran, and neither does Saudi Arabia, neither does the UAE, or any of our other partners and allies in the region. We never have”. Rather, McKenzie maintained they “have repeatedly responded to serious Iranian, irresponsible and outrageous provocations with a measured and defensive posture that has generally tried to lower tensions”. Contending that “tension is simply Iranian provocations and escalatory action that are designed to degrade security and stability in the region”, McKenzie affirmed that “we're not going to quit the region in response to Iranian pressure…Iran needs to understand that the U.S. clearly owns the final steps in any escalatory ladder”. Discussing “the triple challenges of sanctions, low oil prices and the COVID[-19]”, McKenzie assessed that “we’ve deprived the regime of many billions of dollars, but the effect on external operations has been tempered by a couple of factors … the regime in Iran has chosen to fund their own privileged elite and their external activities at a higher priority than the services they provide for the Iranian people. Second, the IRGC has developed a robust internal capability to produce a variety of weapons. While some funding for proxies has been curtailed, the weapons continue to flow because they’re produced internally in Iran”.
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