Condoleezza Rice flexed America’s muscles in the Middle East on Thursday, forcefully warning Iran the U.S. won’t ignore threats and will take any action necessary to defend friends and interests in the Persian Gulf.
A fresh Iranian missile test prompted a show of force from Israel as well.
Rice said Iran’s leaders should understand that Washington won’t dismiss provocations from Tehran and has the ability to counter them. “I don’t think the Iranians are too confused, either, about the capability and the power of the United States to do exactly that,” she said.
Though the White House has repeatedly asserted it prefers diplomacy to war, Rice used some of the administration’s most direct language yet to make clear the U.S. is strengthening its military presence to counter Iran in the strategic Gulf region and is prepared to use force. She also referred to U.S. arms sales to Gulf allies and military aid to Israel as protections against any threat from Iran.
“We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves, and no one should be confused about that,” Rice said in Tbilisi, Georgia, before returning to Washington from a trip to Eastern Europe.
EU criticizes Gypsy crackdown
Italy’s controversial decision to fingerprint Gypsies as part of what it said was a crackdown on crime received a sharp rebuke Thursday from the European Parliament, which declared the campaign distinctly racist.
The Italian government knew it was courting criticism when it began fingerprinting and rounding up the oft-targeted minority known also as Roma.
But Thursday’s proclamation from the European Union’s chief elected body was an especially embarrassing blow to the 2-month-old right-wing administration of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Italy immediately said it would ignore the European Parliament’s resolution.
“Our aim is to put an end to the disgrace of nomad camps,” said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, member of a small xenophobic party that is part of the ruling coalition.
He was referring to the ramshackle settlements where thousands of Gypsy families live around major Italian cities.
Maroni and other senior Italian officials said they were attempting to fight the petty crime that is often associated with the Gypsy population and improve conditions for young Rom children living in squalor. A package of tough security measures that the new government is pushing could remove children from the Rom camps while expelling their parents from the country.