(Natural News)—The Department of Defense has warned that the ongoing escalated conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip could be used as an “opportunity” by Iran to strike American targets all over the Middle East.
Pentagon officials are specifically worried that militant groups backed by Iran or Iranian forces stationed in the Persian Gulf, could take advantage of the heightened instability in the region to attack the United States or partner forces operating in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. (Related: Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah ready to “join the battle” in Gaza, warns Hamas leader.)
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“That presents an opportunity,” said one Pentagon official who spoke with Politico on condition of anonymity.
U.S. military forces stationed in Iraq and Syria are reportedly “aware of malign actors who may seek to capitalize on conflicts and instability in the region,” said Maj. Geoffrey Carmichael, the director of public affairs for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to counter Islamic State remnants in Iraq and Syria.
“We will not let nefarious actors pull us into engagements that detract from our mission,” added Carmichael. He did not mention Iran by name, but he did add: “Make no mistake, we reserve our inherent right to self-defense whenever faced with threats that place our forces in harm’s way.”
The U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Iraq who are not assigned to combat missions but remain in the country advising the Iraqi military. The U.S. has an additional 900 troops in Syria working with local armed groups to counter ISIS.
Alleged Iranian involvement unfounded
Since the beginning of the conflict, American security leaders and mainstream media outlets have claimed that Iran is somehow involved. The Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian security officials supposedly “helped plan Hamas’s Saturday [Oct. 7] surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut [in Lebanon].”
But later reports from U.S. officials note that the Pentagon does not have any specific evidence linking Tehran to the initial attacks led by Hamas. Nevertheless, this did not stop government officials from blaming Iran due to its prior links to Hamas.
“Make no mistake, there’s a degree of complicity here just because Iran’s been supporting Hamas now for many, many years [with] weapons, tools capabilities, training,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “So, clearly, Iran – there’s complicity here. But in terms of the specific series of attacks we have seen … we just don’t have direct evidence.”
Reports from Reuters and the New York Times suggest that the U.S. has collected multiple pieces of intelligence showing that key Iranian leaders did not know that Hamas was planning a large-scale attack and were actually caught by surprise.
Despite no clear link, one U.S. intelligence official who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity suggested that the closest concrete intelligence the Pentagon has suggests that Iran may have been aware that Hamas was planning to take some kind of smaller and limited action against Israel. U.S. intelligence agencies are also allegedly still intent on digging up any kind of information to suggest a concrete link between Iran and recent hostilities.
“We will be looking at additional intelligence in the coming weeks to inform our thinking on this issue, including whether there were at least some within [Iran’s] system that either had a clearer sense of what was coming or even contributed to aspects of the planning,” said the official.
Watch this clip of Sen. Lindsey Graham threatening to “blow up” Iranian oil supplies if Tehran is drawn into the conflict with Israel.
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