ROVANIEMI, Finland — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday evening the United States was doing all it could to prevent attacks by Iranian proxy forces against U.S. forces stationed in Iraq , following the announcement the U.S. is deploying a strike group and bombers to the Middle East.
“As Secretary of State, I have the responsibility to keep the officers that work for me safe each and everyday all around the world. That includes in Erbil and Baghdad, in our facilities in Oman. All around the Middle East, and so, anytime we receive threat reporting, things that raise concerns we do everything we can both to do all that we can to make sure those plans or contemplated attacks don’t take place and to make sure we’ve got the right security posture. The American people should know that we’ve done that,” he said in response to a question from Breitbart News.
Pompeo’s comments come after the New York Times reported Monday that “new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq” were behind the carrier deployment. The White House and the Pentagon made the decision after seeing intelligence that showed “new activity” from Iranian-aligned forces since Friday, two senior officials told the Times. One official noted news concerns in waterways where Iranian naval forces operate.
Pompeo is in Finland for an annual Arctic Council Ministerial. Shortly before he left, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln would be deployed to the Central Command area along with a bomber task force, in response to a “number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” and to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.”
“Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said on Sunday evening.
Pompeo on Monday said the U.S. was still seeing “activity that leads us to believe that there’s escalation that may be taking place. So we’re taking all the appropriate actions both from a security perspective and will allow us our ability to make sure the president has a wide range of options in the event that something should actually take place.”
There are about 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who came back in 2014 to assist Iraqi forces in defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some of the forces who assisted that fight were Shia militia forces suspected to be under the command and control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military forces.
They fought separately from U.S. troops, and there was a question as to whether the forces would begin targeting U.S. troops once the fight to retake territory back from ISIS was over. Last month, the U.S. designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization.