Senior Pentagon officials said Monday they expect to see a “significant escalation” of attacks against U.S. troops in the Middle East, adding the attacks have “Iranian fingerprints all over” them.
A senior U.S. Defense Official and a senior U.S. Military Official held a background briefing on Monday afternoon, and both officials suggested attacks will likely increase on U.S. troops over the coming days.
The defense official reiterated that Iran is funding, equipping, guiding and directing partners and proxies across the Middle East, including Lebanese Hezbollah militia groups in Iran, Syria and Yemen.
“I think it’s fair to say when you see this uptick in activity in attacks by many of these groups, there’s Iranian fingerprints all over it,” the defense official said.
The senior defense official also reflected on the objectives set forth when the Department of Defense got involved. First, it was supporting Israel with expediting security assistance, then to help contain the conflict to Gaza while deterring groups from stepping onto the stage and expanding the conflict beyond Gaza.
The third reason was to protect U.S. forces and personnel and focus on hostage recovery.
But Iran and other forces have sought ways to escalate the conflict by targeting U.S. forces with drones and rockets.
U.S. troops are in Iraq and Syria to support local partners to achieve the defeat of ISIS, the senior defense official said. So, when the efforts continue to increase, Iran is giving space for ISIS to “reconstitute” and destabilize the region, the official added.
The Defense official also said Iran has increased the lethality and sophistication of equipment it provides to the Houthis.
The Houthis are accused of shooting three missiles from Yemen last week, which the USS Carney intercepted and shot down as they flew north along the Red Sea.
“We see a prospect for much more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel in the near term,” the defense official said. “And let’s be clear about it: the road leads back to Iran.”