Anti-ISIS Coalition Official: No Increased Threat from Iranian-Backed Groups

A USAF B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron is parked on a flight line at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on May 8, 2019. Air Force photo by TSgt. Nichelle Anderson.

The US-led coalition has not seen an increase in threats from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria despite proclamations from top US officials to the contrary.

While the coalition’s mission isn’t focused on Iran, it does monitor threats from Iranian-backed militias, British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, the deputy commander for stability for Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, said Tuesday. There has been “no change in their posture” since recent exchanges of threats from the two countries.

“There’s no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” he said, adding “We’re aware of their presence, clearly. And we monitor them, and a whole range of others.”

The US military has deployed a B-52 Bomber Task Force, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, and other assets to US Central Command in response to intelligence that cited “very, very credible” threats to US forces and interests in the region. B-52s, along with F-15s and F-35s, this week began flying deterrence missions in the region.

President Donald Trump, speaking in the Oval Office on Tuesday, warned Iran that if it did “anything” to attack the US, “they will suffer greatly. Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, told reporters in London the recent US deployments risked a “serious miscalculation,” according to USA Today.

The Pentagon last week reportedly presented a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran did attack American forces or accelerate its work on nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported. Trump, when asked about the report, said it is “fake news,” adding “we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a helluva lot more troops than that.”

Ghika was careful to clarify the coalition’s mission only focuses on ISIS inside Iraq and Syria, and not actions taken by neighboring nations. He said the coalition is not “concerned” about specific groups at the time.

“We have a range of force protection measures to protect us against those threats, which we raise and reduce according to the nature of the threat,” he said.