The British deputy commander of the anti-ISIS coalition stated today that there was no evidence of an increased threat from Iranian-backed groups in Iraq or Syria:
The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region.
Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, who is a deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition conducting counter-terrorist operations against Isis in Iraq and Syria, was repeatedly questioned by reporters about the threat from Shia militias in Syria and Iraq, cited by US officials over the past week as justification for speeding up the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group in the Gulf and for sending B-52 Stratofortress bombers and an anti-aircraft battery to the region.
“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika said in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
U.S. Central Command didn’t appreciate having the administration’s anti-Iranian propaganda interrupted:
This is wild. CENTCOM just put out a press release calling out the UK's top general in the anti-ISIS Coalition after he stated that there was "no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria." pic.twitter.com/mZX4DtoSWo
— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) May 14, 2019
Here we have an allied military commander who has no reason to deny or minimize the threat from Iranian-backed militias telling us that the threat from these groups has not increased. The general’s statement doesn’t fit with the Trump administration’s desire to exaggerate and hype threats from Iran, so our military publicly rebukes him for giving what is presumably his honest assessment of the situation. There were already many reasons not to believe the administration’s latest claims about Iran, and this gives us one more reason to conclude that they are deliberately inflating the threat from Iran and its proxies to give them a pretext to escalate tensions. It is likely they are doing this in order to bring us closer to a collision that many in this administration have been seeking for years.
Iran has flatly denied any involvement in the alleged attacks on oil tankers, and the evidence-free claims from anonymous administration officials that they were behind it don’t make sense:
Even some U.S. officials acknowledge a reluctance from Iran to ratchet up tensions. In late April, one week after Washington said it wouldn’t renew waivers to Iran’s oil customers, a U.S. official said its military intelligence showed that the Iranian Navy had not changed its behavior in the Persian Gulf despite threats to close down the strait if Tehran itself was unable to use it.
Some analysts agree, “Right now Iran is most definitely in a de-escalation mode,” said Dina Esfandiary, a fellow with the Harvard Belfer Center who specializes in Iranian and Gulf security. “Attacking Emirati and Saudi tankers makes absolutely no sense.”
The Trump administration doesn’t have evidence to back up its allegations about an increased Iranian threat, and there is so far no evidence to support the assertions from an anonymous administration official that Iran was responsible for whatever happened to the damaged oil tankers. The current administration has lied so often and so brazenly about so many things, especially as it relates to Iran, that we have to assume that they are making things up again to create a crisis that Bolton and other hard-liners hope to turn into a conflict. The Trump administration is doing whatever it can to gin up anti-Iranian hysteria, and so it is crucial that members of Congress, the media, and the public not to fall for their unfounded and exaggerated claims.