U.S. intelligence assets have expressed concerns that there is a real possibility that Iran is seeking to capitalize on worldwide anti-Israel sentiment as it seeks to rally multiple jihadist militant groups in the region to mount a multi-faceted and multi-fronted attack against the already embattled Jewish state.
The news follows the multiple attempts to launch drone strikes against a number of U.S. installations in the area. U.S. forces managed to intercept several drone strikes against bases located in Iraq and Syria, but not before one drone strapped with a bomb managed to damage a hangar in Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq. A number of people stationed at the base sustained minor injuries.
“Red lights (are) flashing everywhere,” CNN reported a U.S. official in the region as saying.
While Iran has often supplied many Muslim militant groups in the region with arms and other needs, the Muslim cleric-led state is ostensibly taking a subtler approach this time around. U.S. intelligence is suggesting that the country is taking a more “encouraging” approach rather than outrightly directing the groups to attack Israel.
The U.S. believes that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has a “very direct connection” with the militant groups in question, according to John Kirby, who serves as spokesperson for the National Security Council.
Another senior defense official confirmed the report to the news outlet, saying, “We see a prospect for much more significant escalation against US forces and personnel in the near term. And let’s be clear about it. The road leads back to Iran. Iran funds, arms, equips and trains militias and proxy forces all across the region. … We are preparing for this escalation, both in terms of defending our forces and being prepared to respond decisively.”
Even now, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been fighting on two fronts already. The majority of its forces and resources are dealing with the obvious threat posed by Hamas, but the IDF is now also having to deal with increasing offensive actions by Lebanon-based Hezbollah, another jihadist militant organization. The IDF reported that several antitank missiles were fired from Lebanon, hitting three areas in Israel. Hezbollah has not claimed credit for the attack, but retaliatory strikes from Israeli forces reportedly damaged a Hezbollah observation post. The IDF has also accused the group of trying to provoke Israeli forces into firing back and potentially hitting peacekeepers from the U.N. that are positioned along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The U.S. has currently sent additional air defense systems to its various positions throughout the Middle East, and has also deployed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. The move has been prompted, at least in part, by “recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces.” The U.S. has also instructed non-emergency personnel who work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Irbil to evacuate, citing the heightened possibility of terrorism, kidnapping and civil unrest.
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.