Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria sent conflicting signals Tuesday over Iran’s alleged threat, with a British general appearing to take issue with Washington’s alarms over an imminent danger posed by Tehran to the US and its allies.
Major General Chris Ghika, a British spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said that they did not sense any intensified threat from Iran in the region, even though the US military was boosting its forces in the Gulf.
“There has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika told reporters via teleconference at the Pentagon.
That brought a sharp retort from the US Central Command, which in the past nine days has accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, adding to it B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile battery and an amphibious assault ship, in the face of the alleged Iranian threat.
Ghika’s comments “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region,” Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said.
The mixed signals underscored questions about the US ramping up its forces in the Gulf without having explained the intelligence behind the move.
On May 5, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the Pentagon was sending the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the region “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” related to Iran.
In the week since, the Pentagon said it would also position a Patriot missile battery and an amphibious assault ship in the region as a warning to Tehran.
Iran has denied planning anything and US allies have warned of the danger of escalation, saying it heightens the chance that an accident could set off a major conflict.
Both Washington and Tehran said Tuesday that they were not seeking war — but, in Sochi, Russia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again issued a warning.