The US has intelligence that Iranian-backed militia groups are planning to ramp up attacks against US forces in the Middle East, as Iran seeks to capitalize on the backlash in the region to US support for Israel, according to multiple US officials.
The militia groups have already launched multiple drone attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria.
But the US now has specific intelligence that those same groups could escalate even further as the war between Israel and Hamas continues.
There are “red lights flashing everywhere,” a US official in the region told CNN.
Officials said that at this point, Iran appears to be encouraging the groups rather than explicitly directing them. One official said Iran is providing guidance to the militia groups that they will not be punished – by not getting resupplied with weaponry, for example – if they continue to attack US or Israeli targets.
On Monday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said there is “a very direct connection between these groups” and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and he said the US is “deeply concerned about the potential of any significant escalation of these attacks in the days ahead.”
A senior defense official echoed that concern on Monday.
“We see a prospect for much more significant escalation against US forces and personnel in the near term,” the official said. “And let’s be clear about it. The road leads back to Iran. Iran funds, arms, equips and trains militias and proxy forces all across the region. … We are preparing for this escalation, both in terms of defending our forces and being prepared to respond decisively.”
Iran supports a number of proxy militia groups in countries across the region through the IRGC-Quds Force, and Tehran does not always exert perfect command and control over these groups. How willing those groups are to act independently is a “persistent intelligence gap,” noted one source. [Continue reading…]
Two dozen American military personnel were wounded last week in a series of drone attacks at American bases in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command told NBC News on Tuesday.
The Pentagon confirmed the attacks last week, but the number of U.S. casualties has not been previously disclosed.