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US general warns of Iran raid in West Asia

No specific evidence said that Iran was plotting an imminent attack against oil facilities or desalinisation plants
The aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln, in the Strait of Hormuz.

New York Times News Service/Eric Schmitt   |   Bahrain   |   Published 23.11.19, 06:37 PM

The deployment of 14,000 additional American troops to the Persian Gulf region since the spring has probably not dissuaded Iran from planning a major attack on the scale of the recent missile and drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the commander of American forces in West Asia says.

The officer, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of the military’s Central Command, said the additional troops, fighter jets and air defences that the Pentagon has dispatched might have deterred Iran from attacking American targets — like Iran’s downing of an unmanned surveillance drone in June. But he said strikes against Gulf nations were another matter.

“My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again,” Gen. McKenzie said in an interview this past week ahead of an international security conference on Saturday.

“It’s the trajectory and the direction that they’re on,” he added in a second interview later in the week. “The attack on the oil fields in Saudi was stunning in the depth of its audaciousness,” he said of an assault in September that the US and its European allies blame Iran for.

“I wouldn’t rule that out going forward.”

Gen. McKenzie did not offer specific evidence that Iran was plotting an imminent attack against targets like oil facilities or desalinisation plants — citing only the ability of American military and spy agencies to detect patterns of worrisome but unspecified Iranian activities.

“Iran is under extreme pressure,” Gen. McKenzie said, referring to the maximum-pressure campaign of economic sanctions that the Trump administration is employing against the country. He added that Iran was trying to “crack the campaign” with attacks to provoke an American military response.

Speaking on Saturday at a regional security conference in Manama, Bahrain, the home of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Gen. McKenzie pledged a continued American security commitment to the Gulf despite a Trump administration policy shift to prioritise threats from China and Russia.

He also urged regional partners like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Oman to work with Washington in confronting any Iranian aggression.

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