Iranian-backed militias could possibly attack U.S. military forces in the Middle East, a U.S. intelligence assessment has concluded.
According to three defense officials, the biggest threat comes from militias in Syria but also other locations in the region, calling the potential threat worrisome. The officials, however, refused to describe the specific intelligence that continues to be gathered, CNN writes.
Such a possibility is particularly serious considering Tehran’s recent statements that the U.S. and its regional allies were behind an attack on an Iranian military parade last Saturday that killed over 29 people, as well as the fact that militias in Syria have increased access to ballistic missiles due to Iran’s continuous supply of weaponry into the country.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed “foreign mercenaries” backed by the United States for the attack on the military parade on September 22. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their U.S. masters accountable for such attacks. Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives.”
In response, National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Iran on Tuesday to change its course or otherwise face dire consequences. During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Bolton said, “If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”
The worrying U.S. assessment points out that there is significant intelligence which indicates that Iran may use its proxies to strike instead of those directly connected to its central government, which is currently making efforts to win support from European nations to maintain some type of nuclear agreement.
Using proxies could make the identification of targets to strike more difficult for U.S. intelligence, but it would also most likely provoke a U.S. military response should U.S. interests come under attack, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.