- The US has spent the past week and a half warning that it has credible intelligence that Iran was plotting attacks against US interests in the region.
- A British general with the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria contradicted that assessment Tuesday, triggering a rebuke from the US military.
- The British Ministry of Defence later attempted to clarify the general’s comments, adding that the UK has long been concerned about “Iran’s destabilizing behaviour in the region.”
- The US has been pouring firepower into the Middle East to deter Iran, but the US military has yet to clarify the exact nature of the new threat posed by Iran.
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The US military and the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria presented two very different versions of the threat currently posed by Iran.
“There are a range of threats to American and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, Operation Inherent Resolve deputy commander for stability, told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday, explaining that while Iranian-backed forces are clearly one of them, “there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”
“Am I concerned about the danger? No, not really,” he said, adding that “we take a range of force protection measures for operating in this part of the world.” When pressed for more information by reporters, he insisted that OIR and the US military were on the same page.
US Central Command, however, issued a statement a few hours later arguing that the general’s comments were inaccurate.
“Recent comments from OIR’s Deputy Commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region,” a CENTCOM spokesman said.
“US Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”
The British Ministry of Defence clarifiedWednesday that Ghika’s comments were “based on the day to day military operations and his sole focus is the enduring defeat of [ISIS].” The ministry added that “the UK has long been clear about our concerns over Iran’s destabilizing behaviour in the region.”
The contradiction comes as the US military, in coordination with the White House, has been moving a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, and other capabilities to the Middle East in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” as CENTCOM said previously.
The US has yet to clarify what threat Iran poses, but has repeatedly insisted that the intelligence on the alleged threat is credible. The White House has insisted that the US will respond to any attack on US interests in the region with “unrelenting force.”
As US firepower moves into the CENTCOM area of responsibility, tensions between Washington and Tehran, which were already high, have soared, with both sides issuing threats. Iran has said that US aircraft carriers are targets rather than threats, and President Donald Trump has warned that Iran will suffer if it tries anything.
The situation, despite assurances to the contrary from the White House and Pentagon, has stoked fears that the US may be gearing up for war with Iran.
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