Iran threat still 'very real': US General


Iran threat still very real: US General

Baghdad - General Frank McKenzie said he remains concerned by Iran's potential for aggression.


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Published: Fri 7 Jun 2019, 10:27 PM

Last updated: Sat 8 Jun 2019, 12:31 AM

Iran has chosen to "step back and recalculate" after making preparations for an apparent attack against US forces in the Arabian Gulf region, but it is too early to conclude the threat is gone, the top commander of American forces in the Mideast said.
In an interview with three reporters accompanying him to the Gulf, General Frank McKenzie said he remains concerned by Iran's potential for aggression and he would not rule out requesting additional US forces to bolster defences against Iranian missiles or other weapons.
"I don't actually believe the threat has diminished," McKenzie said on Thursday. "I believe the threat is very real."
McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, and other military officials are trying to strike a balance between persuading Iran that the US is prepared to retaliate for an Iranian attack on Americans, thus deterring conflict, and pushing so much military muscle into the Gulf that Iran thinks the US plans an attack, in which case it might feel compelled to strike preemptively and thus spark war.
In Baghdad, McKenzie told reporters that US redeployments to the Gulf have "caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I'm not sure they are strategically backing down".
The general said the US is showing enough force to "establish deterrence" without "needlessly" provoking its longtime adversary. He said he is confident in the moves he has made.
"We've taken steps to show the Iranians that we mean business in our ability to defend ourselves," he said, referring to the accelerated deployment to the Gulf area of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, four Air Force B-52 bombers and additional batteries of Army Patriot air-defence systems.
McKenzie said he also has repositioned surveillance aircraft to more closely monitor the situation in the Gulf and in Iraq, where the US has 5,200 troops on the ground, and has given Iran a "new look" by introducing more aerial patrols by land- and carrier-based fighters.
"Cumulatively, all of these have caused them to sort of step back and recalculate the course that they apparently were on," he said.
McKenzie stressed that the danger of conflict with a decades-old American adversary has not passed.
"I hesitate to say that deterrence has been established," he said. "We continue to see possible imminent threats" of a potential Iranian attack.
He said he could not be more specific due to the classification of the intelligence, which he said is as clear and compelling as any he has seen in years.

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