(May 10, 2019 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday suddenly cancelled talks in Germany and traveled to Iraq, where he met both President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
Pompeo said he made the trip because Iranian forces are “escalating their activity,” adding that the threat of “imminent” attacks were “very specific.”
In a seeming response to these threats, the United States sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime,” National Security Advisor John Bolton announced on May 5.
Bolton said the deployment was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” by Tehran, but did not go into detail.
Now, a year after the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal, Iran threatened that it will no longer be committed to parts of the deal with world powers.
On Wednesday, Tehran announced that it would resume high-level enrichment of uranium if world powers do not keep their promises under the deal, as well as protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions; however, the European Union has rejected Iran’s 60-day ultimatum.
Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, affirmed to JNS that “tensions between Iran and the U.S. are clearly escalating following the Trump administration’s designation of the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist organization and its rollback of sanctions waivers on Iran’s oil clients.”
He said that Iran has threatened to take a number of retaliatory steps, “including a closure of the Strait of Hormuz.”
And according to Berman, at least part of the reason for the U.S. military buildup in the region is to deter this sort of destabilizing Iranian behavior.
Another reason for the escalated tensions came as a result of reports that Iran was planning a terrorist attack or a possible military escalation aimed at America.
“Here, too,” Berman said, “the moves taken by the U.S. are intended to deter the Iranians from carrying out their plans.”
Pompeo’s sudden visit to Iraq was meant to send a message of warning to both Iraq and Iran.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS that “Iraq has long been a problematic jurisdiction in terms of Iranian transshipment and IRGC activity.”
Referring to the rumors that Israel provided the United States with intelligence pointing to Iran’s increased hostile activity, Schanzer said “we don’t know exactly what the intelligence pointed to. But we know it was enough to alarm Pompeo to the point that he diverted his schedule to send a direct message to the Iraqi government.”
Berman said Israel remains concerned about “Iran’s regional activity in general, and its ongoing presence in Syria in particular.” He added that “while open U.S.-Iranian military hostilities aren’t in Israel’s interest, intensified efforts on the part of the Trump administration to contain and deter Iran most definitely are.”