The United States has not seen adirectorderfromIran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali KhameneitoattackUStroopsinthe region, thePentagonsaid on Monday following a riseinattacksinIraq and Syria by suspectedIran-backed groups.
US forces have been repeatedly targeted by missiles and drones since the Israel-Gaza conflict began on Oct. 7 with Palestinian Hamas militantsattackingsouthern Israel.
“We don’t necessarily see thatIranhas explicitlyorderedthemtotake these kinds ofattacks,”Pentagonspokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.
Pressed on the issue, Ryder added: “We haven’t seen adirectorder,forexample, from the Supreme Leader saying: ‘Go out and do this.'”
Ryder, however, said that the United States ultimately holdsIranresponsibleforsuchattacksby militant groups “by virtue of the fact that they are supported byIran.”
Iranian security officials told ReutersIran’s strategy wasforMiddleEastproxieslike Hezbollahtopursue limited strikes on Israeli andUS targets buttoavoid a major escalation that would drawinTehran, a high-wire actforthe Islamic Republic.
On Sunday, senior Biden administration officials including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned of the risk of significant escalationinattackson AmericantroopsintheMiddleEast and ofIranseekingtowiden the Israel-Hamas war.
At the weekend, Austinorderednew air defensestotheMiddleEasttosafeguardtroops.
He said thePentagonwill send a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalionstothe region.
The United States has also sent warships and fighter aircrafttothe regiontotrytodeterIranandIran-backed groups from widening the conflict. This includes the deployment of two aircraft carriers and about 2,000 Marines.
“Noone wantstosee a wider regional conflict, but we will not hesitatetoprotect our forces,” Ryder said.
Inthe latest incident,UStroopswere targeted by twoattackdronesinSyria on Monday but they were intercepted by base defenses and causednoinjuries.
Last week,US forces confronted multiple drones targetingtroopsinIraq, some causing minor injuries and aUS warship shot down more than a dozen drones and four cruise missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthis off the coast of Yemen.
The heightened tensions have putUS personnel on constant alert. During a false alarm at Al-Asad airbaseinIraq on Thursday, a civilian contractor died from a cardiac arrest.
(Published 23 October 2023, 17:30 IST)