Gen. Frank McKenzie (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) Gen. Frank McKenzie (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

US commander says Iran threat still ‘very real’

Fri, Jun. 7, 2019
CAIRO - 7 June 2019: Gen. Frank McKenzie top commander of American forces in the Mideast has said in an interview that he remains concerned by Iran's potential for aggression and he would not rule out requesting additional US forces to bolster defenses against Iranian missiles or other weapons.

In an interview with three reporters accompanying him to the Gulf, he said Iran has chosen to "step back and recalculate" after making preparations for an apparent attack against US forces in the Persian Gulf region, but it is too early to conclude the threat is gone, AP reported.

"I don't actually believe the threat has diminished," McKenzie said Thursday. "I believe the threat is very real."

McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, and other military officials are trying to strike a balance between persuading Iran that the US is prepared to retaliate for an Iranian attack on Americans, thus deterring conflict, and pushing so much military muscle into the Gulf that Iran thinks the US plans an attack, in which case it might feel compelled to strike preemptively and thus spark war.

Tensions between the US and Iran have worsened since President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and several world powers and reinstated sanctions on Tehran. Last month, in response to what American officials characterized as an imminent threat, the US announced it would rush an aircraft carrier and other assets to the region.

The US also blamed Iran for last month's attacks on oil tankers in a United Arab Emirates port.

On Thursday, United Nations ambassadors from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway told UN Security Council members that investigators believe those attacks were led by a foreign state using divers on speed boats who planted mines on the vessels. They did not name Iran.

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