A Nour missile is test fired off Iran's first domestically made destroyer, Jamaran, on the southern shores of Iran in the Persian Gulf March 9, 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EBRAHIM NOROOZI/IIPA)
The threat posed on US forces in the Middle East is "imminent," US Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of United States Central Command, told NBC news on Thursday.
"I don't actually believe the threat has diminished," McKenzie said in an interview with a group of reporters after meeting with Iraq's prime minister and defense chief. "I believe the threat is still very real."
"I think we're still in the period of what I would call tactical warning," the general added. "The threat is very real."
McKenzie would not explain in detail what these "imminent" threats are, according to NBC.
On May 5, US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber force would be sent to the Persian Gulf to confront any Iranian threats. That included a threat against US “maritime and land-based forces,” CNN said. The force deployment was a “message” to Iran.
Later, more US assets arrived, including four B-52s and eventually a Patriot missile battery and amphibious warfare forces, as well.
McKenzie added that he has re-positioned surveillance aircraft to focus more closely on the situation in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, Fox News reported.
"Cumulatively, all of these have caused them to sort of step back and recalculate the course that they apparently were on." McKenzie stressed, though, that he is "not sure they are strategically backing down," according to Fox News.
"I hesitate to say that deterrence has been established," he stated. "We continue to see possible imminent threats."
Concerning the decision to deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln, McKenzie added that the threats from Iran in early May were "advanced, imminent and very specific."
In the predawn hours of May 13, four ships were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman off the UAE’s Fujairah port. The extent of the damage and what caused it were not immediately clear, but an unnamed US official told the press that an initial assessment pointed toward Iran and Iran’s allies. Iran blamed a third country, and one Iranian politician blamed Israel.
The US has said that “naval mines” were behind the damage to the ships – one from the UAE, two from Saudi Arabia and a fourth was from Norway. They were damaged on May 12; the US has indicated that Iran or its allies were behind the attack from the first days after the incident.
McKenzie explained that the US is trying to walk the line between showing enough force to "establish deterrence" and "needlessly" provoking the Islamic Republic, according to Fox News. "We've taken steps to show the Iranians that we mean business in our ability to defend ourselves."
McKenzie added that the Iraqi government has made great efforts to protect American forces and allies in the Middle East, NBC reported.
"I would say the threat has probably evolved in certain ways even as our defensive posture has changed and become more aggressive, and we certainly thank our Iraqi partners for many of the things they've done," he said.
Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.
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