The top US commander in the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie told interviewers on Thursday that he believes Iran remains an “imminent” threat to US forces. He dismissed the idea that a US military buildup in the area had in any way diminished the perceived threat.
“I don’t actually believe the threat has diminished,” McKenzie told interviewers, adding that it “has probably evolved in certain ways. These comments stand in stark contrast to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who recently declared Iran “deterred” by the US buildup.
Pentagon officials have not been very transparent on their estimation of threats, so it is difficult to judge the differences in assessments, or their validity. Gen. McKenzie, however, suggested Iran or its proxies could attack “at any moment.”
These claims seem unrealistic, given everything that is ongoing in the Middle East, and look more than a little self-serving for high-ranking military officials who are seeing another large military budget make its way through Congress and know that talk of a large, “imminent” war would facilitate that bill’s passage.
President Trump has repeatedly insisted he doesn’t want a war with Iran, and while he can’t totally rule one out, he has says there is “no indication” that anything might happen in the first place, severely undercutting the case being made by the generals, and the administration’s hawks.
It also makes it puzzling that Gen. McKenzie chose to praise the Iraqi government for measures to protect US troops, since the meat of his argument is that the threat is not reduced, and official references to Iranian proxies almost always refers to elements within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, part of the government’s security forces.