US Commander Says Iran Possibly Planning Attack in Middle East

November 25, 2019 Updated: November 25, 2019

A U.S. official said that Iran might launch another attack in the Middle East, after an ongoing investigation has indicated the country is responsible for the September attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

“My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of the military’s Central Command, told The New York Times.

“It’s the trajectory and the direction that they’re on. The attack on the oil fields in Saudi was stunning in the depth of its audaciousness. I wouldn’t rule that out going forward.”

The attacks come as “Iran is under extreme pressure” because of the strict sanctions President Donald Trump’s administration has imposed on the country. Iran’s attacks have been an attempt to “crack the campaign” and provoke the United States into responding.

“I think the strike on Saudi Aramco in September is pretty indicative of a nation that is behaving irresponsibly,” McKenzie told Foreign Policy. “When a nation behaves that irresponsibly, you have to be very cautious when you evaluate what they might do in the future.”

“Deterrence assumes there is going to be a rational actor on the other end,” he said. “There is a basic recklessness and irresponsibility to their actions that makes you very concerned about what they might do tomorrow or the next day, and that’s very concerning.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards
Iranian Revolutionary Guards patrolling around the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero on July 21, 2019. (Hasan Shirvani/AFP/Getty Images)

At a defense conference in Bahrain over the weekend, he said that partners in the region need to come together to face Iran.

“Unfortunately, sometimes the Iranian regime has proved itself to be the bully in the neighborhood. And the only way to stand up to a bully is to do it together.” McKenzie told the audience. “It’s a great big world, and there’s a lot of water to cover.”

The United States has sent some 14,000 troops to the Persian Gulf region since the spring, including more than 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia. The Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier was sent through the Strait of Hormuz last week, the first time a Navy carrier entered the Gulf since April, and Trump ordered more forces to the Middle East earlier this month, telling congressional leaders, “Iran has continued to threaten the security of the region, including by attacking oil and natural gas facilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sept. 14.”

A senior defense intelligence official told reporters on Nov. 19 that Iran is trying to work through proxy groups in the region. The country tries to support “any groups that will help advance their strategic goals,” the official said.

While Saudi Arabia has a probe underway into the attack on its oil facilities, the United States believes Iran was responsible, a senior defense intelligence official told reporters on Nov. 19. U.S. leaders know that cruise missiles and UAVs were used in the attack.

“We see Iran’s goal here as, one, trying to deter attacks on Iran, and we also see Iran wanting to be able to project its power and influence in the region and secure that dominant regional presence that they seek to have, partially because it provides them strategic depth, but also to be able to advance their interests a little bit more and leave them less vulnerable,” the official said.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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