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Top Pentagon official warns of possible Iranian aggression against US forces

Top Pentagon official warns of possible Iranian aggression against US forces
© GW Project for Media and National Security

A top Pentagon official on Wednesday said there were indications that Iran may soon attack U.S. forces or interests in the Middle East.

“We do remain concerned about potential Iranian aggression,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told reporters in Washington, D.C. 

“We also continue to see indications ... potential Iranian aggression could occur.”

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Rood said the U.S. has been clear with Iran over consequences should any aggression occur.

“In private … we’ve sent very clear and blunt signals to the Iranian government about the potential consequences of aggression,” Rood said.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have simmered since President Trump last year pulled the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Tehran.

Those tensions worsened earlier this year when Iran shot down a U.S. military drone and the U.S. intelligence agencies blamed attacks on oil tankers in the region’s waterways on Tehran.

And on Sept. 14, there was a strike on two Saudi oil facilities that the United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have all publicly blamed on Iran.

Tehran denied any involvement in the attack, but the Iran-aligned Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility. 

To deter the aggression, Washington has increased force deployments to the Persian Gulf by roughly 14,000 U.S. troops since last spring. In addition, the U.S. has set up the International Maritime Security Construct, a now seven-country mission to police the Strait of Hormuz to ensure freedom of navigation for international vessels.

But U.S. Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said last month that while the additional troops and equipment in the region may have put off Iran from striking U.S. forces, it was “very possible” that Iran will attack again in the region.

“My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again,” McKenzie told reporters.

“It’s the trajectory and the direction that they’re on,” he said later. “The attack on the oil fields in Saudi was stunning in the depth of its audaciousness. I wouldn’t rule that out going forward.”

And an administration official told CNN this week that there is “consistent intelligence in the last several weeks” that Iran may soon strike U.S. targets or interests.

Rood, the Pentagon’s No. 3 official, did not give details on what information the Pentagon has received to tip it off to a potential attack.