US President Donald Trump has said that Tehran should expect a bold US response if Iran or Iranian-backed groups attack American forces or assets in Iraq.
US-Iran tensions soared following the 3 January Washington-directed strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani outside Baghdad airport. Trump said at an evening White House briefing that his administration has received intelligence that Iran is planning a strike, but did not provide additional details.
Iran has been blamed for an uptick in rocket attacks targeting Iraqi military bases hosting US troops. Three separate attacks in the span of a week struck Camp Taji and Basmaya bases, killed three coalition servicemen, including two Americans, and injured scores of others.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted, “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!”
Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and has steadily reimposed US sanctions on Iran that had been eased or lifted under the terms of the deal.
Last week, the administration slapped new sanctions on 20 Iranian people and companies for supporting Shia militia in Iraq held responsible for attacks on bases where US forces are located. Currently, there are about 7,500 coalition troops in Iraq assisting and providing training to their Iraqi security counterparts to fight the Islamic State group.
(This copy was published in an arrangement with PTI)