Top Iranian official approved attacks on US military: report

The Trump administration’s decision to increase its military presence in the Middle East was partly prompted by intelligence that Tehran gave its blessing to some of its proxy forces to attack U.S. military assets and personnel in the region, NBC News reported Thursday.

Three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence told the network that an Iranian official discussed allowing groups back by Iran to target Americans, but made no mention of attacking other nations’ militaries or assets.

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The officials said the U.S. is now tracking possible missile attacks by small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, assaults in Iraq by Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups and attacks against U.S. ships by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“U.S. Central Command has seen recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region,” U.S. Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban told NBC News. “This include threats on land and in the maritime. We are not going to be able to provide detailed information on specific threats at this time.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Washington has long accused Tehran of arming and supporting a litany of groups across the Middle East in an effort to combat U.S. influence in the region.

The officials also told NBC News that the Pentagon has observed movements of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces, prompting the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, to ask for additional troops to be positioned in the Middle East.

The Pentagon deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East Sunday amid escalating tensions with Iran. The White House has also slapped additional sanctions on Iran and took the unprecedented step of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Iran responded by declaring it would cease to comply with aspects of a landmark 2015 nuclear pact from which President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE withdrew the U.S. in 2017.

The three officials also told NBC News that Iran has not slowed its movement of troops, despite the U.S. deployments.

“If US and clients don't feel safe, it's because they're despised by the people of the region— blaming Iran won’t reverse that,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Tuesday.