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Iranian-backed Militias Poised to Escalate Attacks on US Forces in the Middle East, Intelligence Reveals

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The United States possesses intelligence indicating that militia groups with ties to Iran are planning to increase their attacks against U.S. forces in the Middle East. This comes in the context of Iran seeking to exploit regional backlash against U.S. support for Israel. Several U.S. officials have confirmed that these militia groups have already carried out multiple drone attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. The current concern is that these groups may escalate their activities further amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

According to a U.S. official in the region, there are alarm signals suggesting a heightened threat. While Iran is not explicitly directing these groups, officials believe that Iran is providing encouragement and guidance, assuring the militias that they won't face repercussions, such as a lack of resupply of weaponry, if they continue targeting U.S. or Israeli interests.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby emphasized a direct connection between these groups and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He expressed deep concern about the potential for a significant escalation in attacks in the coming days. A senior defense official echoed this worry, stating that there is a possibility of a more substantial escalation against U.S. forces and personnel in the near term, and attributing the root cause to Iran.

The U.S. is preparing for such escalation, focusing on both defending its forces and being ready to respond decisively. Iran's support for proxy militia groups in the region is facilitated through the IRGC-Quds Force, with Tehran not always exercising perfect command and control over these entities. The extent to which these groups act independently remains a persistent intelligence gap.

Kirby asserted that Iran is closely monitoring events and, in some cases, actively facilitating and encouraging attacks. He emphasized that while Iran aims to maintain plausible deniability, the U.S. is committed to preventing such evasion.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, when asked about Iran's direct involvement, pointed out that whether Iran is directing these groups or not, they have sponsored these militias and bear responsibility for their actions.

A senior official from the State Department, speaking independently to CNN, emphasized that the United States and its partners share a unified stance regarding Iran. The collective message aims to convey to Iran that taking advantage of the situation and allowing groups under its control or influence to exploit it would lead to severe and potentially escalatory consequences. This message, the official emphasized, is not exclusive to the United States but is a shared sentiment among its allies.

Qatar has played a crucial role as an intermediary between the U.S., its allies, and Iran, according to multiple officials. Regarding recent drone attacks on U.S. bases, one source familiar with intelligence stated that Iran bears more responsibility compared to the recent Hamas attack in Israel, which apparently caught Iranian officials off guard on October 7.

Iranian proxy forces have targeted U.S. troop bases before, prompting U.S. responses through airstrikes on group infrastructure, including actions as recent as March. Currently, there is a perception that Iran has a high appetite for expanding the conflict, with a notable tolerance for risk.

In response to heightened threats, the U.S. is actively reinforcing its defenses in the region. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the deployment of additional air defense systems, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system and extra Patriot batteries. Recent incidents include the shooting down of two drones targeting U.S. forces in Syria and three separate drone attacks last week in Iraq and Syria by suspected Iranian proxy groups, as confirmed by the Pentagon.

The situation further intensified when a U.S. Navy warship intercepted multiple missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthi militants off the coast of Yemen, seemingly headed towards Israel. Despite these events, there appears to be no clear consensus in Tehran regarding the approach to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The senior State Department official noted that diverse voices within the Iranian system advocate different approaches.

According to another official, the likelihood of Iran engaging in direct confrontation with Israel or the U.S. seems low. Instead, the strategy involves directing proxies to target U.S. assets in the Middle East. This approach allows Iran to uphold its influence and reputation while strategically managing the risks of escalation. During a joint news conference with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian characterized the Middle East as a "powder keg." Quoted by the state-aligned Tasnim news, Abdollahian warned of serious consequences for any miscalculation in the ongoing issues of genocide and forced displacement, specifically pointing fingers at the U.S. and Israel. He stated that the region could spiral out of control if such crimes against humanity persist.

Addressing concerns of potential escalation, U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin expressed apprehension on ABC's "This Week." He emphasized the prospect of a significant increase in attacks on U.S. troops and personnel across the region. Austin pledged that necessary measures would be taken to ensure the protection of U.S. forces, positioning them appropriately and maintaining the capability to respond effectively to emerging threats.

The article underscores a growing concern regarding the heightened tensions in the Middle East, specifically focusing on potential threats posed by Iranian-backed militia groups against U.S. forces and interests. Multiple U.S. officials have noted an increase in drone attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by these groups, with specific intelligence indicating a potential escalation amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. The article emphasizes a shared international message, led by the U.S., cautioning Iran against exploiting the situation. Qatar is identified as a key intermediary in diplomatic efforts.

The U.S. is actively reinforcing its defenses in response to perceived threats, deploying additional air defense systems to the region. The situation is complex, with concerns about Iran's influence and its proxy forces' actions, as well as the potential for a significant escalation in the conflict. Iranian officials, however, maintain a strategic position, seemingly preferring indirect engagement through proxies to maintain influence while avoiding direct confrontation with the U.S. and Israel.

The Iranian Foreign Minister's statements, characterizing the Middle East as a "powder keg," warn against the potential consequences of ongoing issues such as forced displacement and genocide, attributing responsibility to the U.S. and Israel. This rhetoric aligns with Iran's broader strategy of deflecting blame while asserting a degree of control over regional dynamics.

In summary, the article highlights a delicate geopolitical situation with the potential for increased hostilities in the Middle East. The U.S. is actively responding to perceived threats, while Iran employs a strategy of indirect engagement through proxies, emphasizing the need to carefully manage the risk of escalation in the region.

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