Marine General Kenneth McKenzie has said the killing Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani six months ago has put Iran on the back foot, but has warned an attack on US forces could be about to take place. The killing of General Soleimani and subsequent coronavirus crisis in Iran has put tensions between the two nations on the backburner, however General McKenzie warned Iran could be plotting a way to drive US troops out of the region.
The top US official is the commanding officer for around 80,000 military personnel in the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General McKenzie told Bloomberg: “I draw no confidence from periods of quiet.
“That’s when I actually begin to look very hard at what the Iranians might be up to because I think they have long-term goals to eject us.”
The military officer said the current period of relative calm also took place in September 2019 before an attack on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia – a key US ally in the Middle East.
The US blamed the cruise missile attack at the Saudi Aramco plant on Iran – something Tehran has denied.
Recalling the incident, General McKenzie said: “I remember well the lesson of last fall where we were in a relative period of quiet and, bang, they attacked Aramco.”
The head of US Central Command insisted the US would be ready and could make it “very painful” for Tehran.
He added: “Iran recognises that we have the capability in the theater to make it very painful for them to launch a direct or indirect attack against either us or one of our partners or allies.
The US has since re-imposed sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil trade and pressure Tehran to renegotiate the deal, give up its ballistic missiles, and cease its involvement in regional wars.
On Wednesday tensions between officials reignited after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said US and unidentified allied forces had identified a vessel off Yemen’s coast carrying Iranian arms to the Houthis – an Iranian-aligned rebel group fighting the Yemeni Government.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi rejected the accusations and accused the US of “spreading hatred”.