Relations between the United States and Iran are in a “period of opportunity” following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the top US military commander in the Middle East said during his first swing into the region under the new administration, Defense One reported.
US Central Command’s Gen. Frank McKenzie confirmed that there were “heightened threat streams” from Iran during the months leading up to Biden’s election and inauguration, but said that the United States was able to maintain what he has long termed a “contested deterrence” during what has become increasingly clear was an unnerving and unpredictable moment.
“Our goal was to deter a war,” McKenzie told reporters traveling with him to the region.
Not only did Iran not strike any US targets directly, as some security and military analysts had worried it might do in the waning days of former President Donald Trump’s tenure, but Iran was also largely able to manage its proxy actors in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, McKenzie said. Not all of those groups operate under direct command and control from Tehran.
“Largely they have been able to tell them this is not the time to provoke a war,” he said. “Not all of that is probably the result of the military component. I’m sure there’s a political calculation in Iran to get to a new administration and see if things change.”
Now, McKenzie said, “You have a new administration that’s going to revisit U.S. policy.”
McKenzie enters the region in a moment of transition for US foreign policy, in particular toward Iran. Biden has vowed to redevelop some form of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, which Trump exited in 2018.