The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, told reporters Thursday that the threat posed by Iran to U.S. forces in the Middle East is still “imminent” and “very real,” despite a cooling in hostile activity.
The senior U.S. commander explained that the U.S. aims at striking the right balance between showing enough force to “establish deterrence” and “needlessly” provoking the Iranian regime. “We’ve taken steps to show the Iranians that we mean business in our ability to defend ourselves,” McKenzie said.
The United States sent 900 additional troops to Saudi Arabia and Qatar last month amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the deployment was intended to counter “ongoing threats posed by Iranian forces, including the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] and its proxies.”
The measured U.S. response was effective, McKenzie noted, and “caused the Iranians to back up a little bit.” However, the general said, “I hesitate to say that deterrence has been established.”
The general warned that while the Iranian regime has decided to “recalculate” whether to attack American assets in the Persian Gulf, “I’m not sure they are strategically backing down.” He explained that, “We’re still in the period of what I would call tactical warning.”
McKenzie stressed that, “We continue to see possible imminent threats” of an Iranian attack.
In May, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen carried out multiple drone attacks on critical oil infrastructure in Saud Arabia, shortly after the kingdom said two of its oil tankers and two other vessels had been damaged in an act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
The incidents took place shortly after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed into law a bill that designated all U.S. forces in the Middle East as terrorists and declared the U.S. government a sponsor of terrorism.
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