By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged to respond rapidly to strikes from Iran-backed militias in defense of U.S. troops as reports emerged of yet another strike on an Iraqi base where American troops are stationed Tuesday.
Since Thursday, militias receiving funding and encouragement from Iran have launched rockets and one-way attack drones at bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria after a months-long lull. Speaking to the United Nations Security Council, Blinken echoed the Pentagon’s earlier warnings that Iranian proxy militias would seek to escalate attacks in the near future targeting American military personnel, trying to draw the U.S. into a war mushrooming across the region.
“The U.S. does not seek conflict with Iran. We do not want this war to widen. But, if Iran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere, make no mistake: We will defend our people, we will defend our security, swiftly and decisively,” Blinken said.
Rockets rained down at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base near Baghdad, where U.S. and coalition troops are based, again on Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing two Iraqi security sources. One source said the rockets were large.
There was no official confirmation of the attacks; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. The Pentagon is looking into the latest reports, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Monday.
“It is no secret to anyone in this room, or on this council, that for years, Iran has supported Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and other groups that continue to carry out attacks on Israel. Iranian leaders have routinely threatened to wipe Israel off the map. In recent weeks, Iran’s proxies have repeatedly attacked U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria,” Blinken said.
On Blinken’s agenda at the U.N. meeting was convincing Iran’s representative to the region to exercise Tehran’s significant power over Lebanese Hezbollah, dissuading the group from joining the war on Israel, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Pentagon has surged troops and hardware near Israel as a show of force in hopes of deterring Iran and its proxies from engaging.
As attacks on installations throughout the region where American troops are present mount, the Pentagon has taken additional steps to bolster defenses in the CENTCOM region to protect U.S. troops.
“Should there be a response, if there is to be one, the Department will do so at the time and place of our choosing,” Ryder said.
A squadron of fighter aircraft arrived in the area on Tuesday, and a group of warships is on its way. Troops elsewhere stand at the ready to deploy to the region if needed, and Austin also activated additional Patriots and a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to augment air defenses in the area.
“We know there is a significant threat of escalation throughout the region and that would include towards U.S. forces,” a senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday.