Top US security official postpones India visit due to Middle East tensions

Fears of a wider conflict in the region have escalated after Iran's missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend

By Reuters

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AFP file
AFP file

Published: Tue 16 Apr 2024, 10:30 AM

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has postponed a visit to India scheduled for this week due to "ongoing events in the Middle East", the US Embassy in New Delhi said on Tuesday.

Fears of a wider conflict in the region have escalated after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin held calls on Monday with counterparts in the Middle East and Europe, expressing support for Israel after attacks from Iran but also stressing regional stability to prevent conflict from spreading, the Pentagon said.

The US was not informed by Iran in advance about its attack on Israel and Washington did not seek a conflict with Tehran, the Pentagon said.

Israel faced pressure from allies to show restraint and avoid an escalation of regional conflict as it considered how to respond to Iran's barrage. Israel's military chief of staff said the country would respond to the Iranian attack.

Austin held separate calls on Monday with Bahrain's crown prince and prime minister, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa as well as Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, and Qatari Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah. In those calls, he condemned Iran's attacks and said Washington did not seek an escalation of the conflict, according to the Pentagon.

Austin told his counterparts that "while the United States does not seek escalation, we will continue to defend Israel and US personnel," the Pentagon said. In the call with Gallant, according to the Pentagon, he expressed support for Israel's defence and "reaffirmed the strategic goal of regional stability."

"Whether or not Israel decides to retaliate against Iran is something for Israel to decide," a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters earlier on Monday.

The Israel-Iran tensions have heightened concerns that violence rooted in the Gaza war is spreading further in the region. Since the start of the war in Gaza on October 7, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.


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