Washington says it will not allow threats to its interests to ‘go unchallenged’ after increase in attacks on its forces in the region.
The United States has accused Iran of “actively facilitating” rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups on its forces in Iraq and Syria.
John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said on Monday the US would not allow threats to interests “go unchallenged” after an uptick in such attacks over the last week as tensions rise across the region amid the Israel-Hamas war.
The US has thrown its weight behind Israel over the latter’s intense air campaign on the Gaza Strip, prompted by an unprecedented attack by the Palestinian group Hamas on October 7. The US has rejected calls for a ceasefire as it says that ally Israel has a right to self-defence.
“Iran continues to support Hamas and Hezbollah, and we know that Iran is closely monitoring these events and, in some cases, actively facilitating these attacks and spurring on others who may want to exploit the conflict for their own good or for that of Iran,” Kirby told reporters at the White House.
“We know Iran’s goal is to maintain some level of deniability here, but we are not going to allow them to do that,” Kirby said, confirming that the US has sent a “few” military advisers to Israel with experience in “the sorts of operations that Israel is conducting, and may conduct in the future”.
There was no immediate comment by the Iranian government.
Iran politically backs Hamas as well as the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and Shia groups in Iraq, but rejects giving military support to these groups.
In recent days, Iranian leaders have warned that a ground Israeli offensive on Gaza would be met with a response from other fronts.
“If the crimes of the Zionist [Israeli] regime continue, Muslims and resistance forces will become impatient, and no one can stop them,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week. “The bombardment of Gaza must stop immediately.”
Until the flareup in violence, President Joe Biden’s administration had hailed a period of relative calm with pro-Iranian fighters in the region and the dialogue between the two sides.
However, since Wednesday, multiple rocket and drone attacks have targeted three Iraqi military bases across the Middle East where US troops are stationed as part of the international coalition set up to fight the ISIL (ISIS) group.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, told reporters that Tehran “neither gives orders to the resistance groups across the region, nor stop them from taking decisions in their own countries based on their own interests”.
According to Amirabdollahian, the US has sent messages to Iran to say it does not want the scope of the war to expand, and it wants Tehran to show restraint and also ask others who may wish to militarily respond to show restraint.
“Mr. Biden, stop your hypocrisy. Is this your election campaign promises of supporting human rights across the globe?”
The US administration has sent naval support for Israel in the past two weeks, including two aircraft carriers, other warships and about 2,000 marines in the Middle East.
Washington has also promised major defence aid to Israel since Hamas’s attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
In Gaza, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health says more than 5,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed during Israel’s relentless air raids that destroyed entire neighbourhoods.