General Frank McKenzie, the top commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, said on Thursday that Iran continues to pose an “imminent” threat to the region, adding that the deployment of American forces there forced Tehran to “step back and recalculate.”
“It is my assessment that this has caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I’m not sure they are strategically backing down,” the general said to reporters in Baghdad.
He then said that this does not mean the threat is gone and warned that the threat of Iranian aggression persists and that the U.S. continues to “evaluate our force posture in the region.” McKenzie likewise didn’t rule out requesting more troops to boost defense capabilities against Iranian missiles or other weapons.
“I don’t actually believe the threat has diminished. I believe the threat is very real,” the U.S. Central Command general noted, according to Fox News.
Tensions with Iran heightened recently after President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran. Since then, the U.S. has increased the number of troops and military assets to the Middle East in an attempt to prevent Iran from striking and to show it the U.S. would retaliate should Tehran attack.
McKenzie said the U.S. is showing enough force to deter Iran without provoking it. “We’re working very hard to walk that line.”
He also thanked the Iraqi government for making efforts to protect American troops in the region.
“They probe for weakness all the times. I would say the threat has probably evolved in certain ways even as our defensive posture has changed and become more aggressive, and we certainly thank our Iraqi partners for many of the things they’ve done,” said McKenzie.
Meanwhile, President Trump, who is in France for the commemoration of the D-Day, said U.S. sanctions are crippling Iran’s economy, noting that negotiations with Iran are possible only if Iran decides to give up its nuclear weapons.
“And if they want to talk, that’s fine. We’ll talk. But the one thing that they can’t have is they can’t have nuclear weapons,” Trump said.