Continuing to stoke fears of possible Iranian attacks, anonymous US officials told CNN on Thursday that what they described as “Iranian-backed” militias in Iraq have moved to a “heightened level of preparation.”
One official told CNN that there are “indications” of militia preparations. But the official offered no further detail, and CNN said there were no “specific indications that any decision to attack has been made.”
On Thursday, Politico also published a story citing an anonymous official who made a similar warning. The official told Politico that the Pentagon is closely watching “troubling indicators of potential attack preparations” in Iraq.
Since Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an apparent Israeli plot, anonymous US and Israeli officials have been warning of imminent Iranian attacks. But Iran seems keen to avoid a military conflict with the US.
Fakhrizadeh was killed after a report said President Trump reviewed options to attack an Iranian nuclear facility. Israel seemed to take the news as a signal to escalate tensions in the region, while Iran preached caution to its allies.
In November, an Iranian general delivered a message to Iran’s allies and Shia militias in Iraq not to attack the US in the coming months. Demonstrating that not all Shia militias in Iraq are a monolith or aligned with Iran, one militia leader rejected Iran’s warning.
In response to Iran’s message, the leader of the Shia Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia said, “The Americans occupy our country, not yours. We will not listen to you anymore because our motives are 100 percent nationalist.”
Despite the different factions within the Shia militias, any violence in Iraq against the US between now and January 20th will almost certainly be blamed on Iran.
On Thursday, the US flew two B-52 bombers into the Persian Gulf, near Iranian airspace. It was the second time in only three weeks Washington deployed long-range bombers to the region.