WASHINGTON (AP)– Global concerns that the Trump administration is moving toward war with Iran flared into the open amid uncertainty about its claims that the Islamic Republic poses a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf and beyond.
The U.S. military on Tuesday rebutted doubts revealed by a British basic about such a risk. President Donald Trump rejected a report that the administration has actually upgraded plans to send more than 100,000 soldiers to counter Iran if necessary. However Trump then stirred the controversy further by saying: “Would I do that? Absolutely.”
The general’s remarks reviewed international skepticism over the American military build-up in the Middle East, a tradition of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was predicated on incorrect intelligence. U.S. authorities have actually not publicly supplied any proof to support claims of an increased Iranian hazard amidst other indications of allied unease.
As tensions in the area started to surge, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country was fretted about the threat of accidental dispute “with an escalation that is unintended actually on either side.” Then on Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates from the U.S.-led battle fleet heading toward the Strait of Hormuz. That was followed by the unusual public obstacle to the Trump administration by the general.
” No, there’s been no increased danger from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed union combating the Islamic State group. Ghika, speaking in a video conference from union head office in Baghdad, informed reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition keeps track of the existence of Iranian-backed forces “together with a whole series of others because that’s the environment we’re in.”
However he added, “There are a considerable variety of militia groups in Iraq and Syria, and we do not see any increased danger from any of them at this phase.”
Late in the day, in an unusual public rebuttal of an allied military officer, U.S. Central Command stated Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible hazards” from Iranian-backed forces in the Mideast. In a composed declaration, Central Command said the coalition in Baghdad has increased the alert level for all service members in Iraq and Syria.
” As a result, (the coalition) is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly impending hazards to U.S. forces in Iraq,” the declaration said.
At the White Home, Trump, who has actually consistently argued for avoiding long-lasting disputes in the Mideast, discounted a New York Times report that the U.S. has actually upgraded plans that might send out up to 120,000 troops to counter Iran if it attacked American forces.
” Would I do that? Definitely,” he informed reporters. “But we have not prepared for that. Ideally we’re not going to need to prepare for that. If we did that, we ‘d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Enhancing Trump’s rejection, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint news conference in Sochi with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “We essentially do not look for war with Iran.”
A Trump administration official stated a recent small conference of national security authorities was not focused on a military response to Iran, but rather concentrated on a series of other policy choices, including diplomacy and economic sanctions. The main spoke on condition of anonymity to go over internal considerations.
Lavrov said Pompeo informed him that a prospective deployment of 120,000 U.S. troops to the Mideast was just a “rumor.” Lavrov said the worldwide community needs to concentrate on diplomacy with Iran, consisting of on the potentially explosive concern of Iran’s nuclear program, which is constrained by a U.S.-brokered handle 2015 that Trump has deserted.
U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook informed press reporters taking a trip with Pompeo in Brussels that the secretary of state shared intelligence on Iran with allies because “Europe shares our issues about stability in the Gulf and the Middle East.” What the Europeans do not share, nevertheless, is Washington’s more aggressive method to Iran.
” We are extremely concerned about the danger of a dispute occurring by mishap, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side however ends with some type of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt informed press reporters in Brussels.
” What we need is a period of calm to ensure that everyone understands what the opposite is thinking,” Hunt stated.
Last week, U.S. authorities said they had actually discovered signs of Iranian preparations for prospective attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Mideast, however Washington has actually not spelled out that danger.
The U.S. has about 5,000 soldiers in Iraq and about 2,000 in Syria as part of the coalition project to defeat the Islamic State group there. It likewise has long had a range of air and marine forces stationed in Bahrain, Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf, partially to support military operations against IS and partly as a counter to Iranian impact.
Gen. Ghika’s comments came in the middle of dramatically heightened stress in the Middle East. The U.S. in recent days has actually ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln airplane carrier strike group to the Gulf area, plus four B-52 bombers. It likewise is moving a Patriot air-defense rocket battery to a concealed country in the location. As of Tuesday, the Lincoln and its strike group had gone through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea, but officials would not divulge their specific location.
Stress rose another notch with reports Sunday that four business vessels anchored off the United Arab Emirates had been harmed by sabotage.
A U.S. military team was sent to the UAE to investigate, and one U.S. authorities said the initial assessment is that each ship has a 5- to 10- foot hole in it, near or just below the water line. The official, who was not licensed to publicly discuss information of the examination, stated the early interpretation is that the holes were brought on by explosive charges.
The authorities on Tuesday acknowledged seeing some photos of the damage to the ships, but those images have actually not been made public. The official likewise said that the group is continuing to perform forensic testing on the ship damage which U.S. leaders are still waiting for the final report. The group’s initial evaluation is that the damage was done by Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies, but they are still going through the proof and have not yet reached a final conclusion, the authorities said.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee and Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.