Upping its rhetoric against Iran, the Defence Department on Monday said it will hold Tehran ultimately responsible for a recent rash of drone and rocket strikes on American forces in the Middle East.
DOD spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters on Monday that while the Pentagon does not have evidence that the Iranian government “explicitly ordered” the attacks on U.S. soldiers in the previous week, the groups responsible for the incidents are sponsored by Tehran.
An American contractor died of a heart attack while fleeing a false alarm at al Asad air base in Iraq, and other U.S. servicemen were injured over the course of several days as targets in Iraq and Syria.
The fact that they are backed by Iran means that Iran will be held accountable, Ryder said.
As the regional crisis has escalated since Hamas terrorists’ surprise attacks on Israel on October 7, Ryder’s statements on Monday marked a departure from the Pentagon’s usually cautious stance against Tehran.
Ryder refused to place blame for the drone assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria during a press briefing last Thursday, after the warship USS Carney had intercepted missiles and drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the northern Red Sea. He also refused to make any connections between the attacks on October 7 and the current ones against American forces.
To counter this argument, Ryder brought up last week’s threats by Iranian proxy groups threatening to increase assaults on American forces if Israel begins a ground invasion of Gaza.
A second attack in Syria was confirmed, but he would not specify which Iranian proxy forces were responsible. American soldiers at the al Tanf base in southern Syria shot down two drones, Ryder said, in the most recent incident around 3 a.m. Eastern time on Monday. Nobody got hurt, thankfully.
Ryder stated, “We are concerned about escalation.” “We all want to prevent regional tensions from escalating into a full-scale war,” the statement read.
In the wake of last week’s strikes, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin sent more ships and air defences to U.S. Central Command. They shifted their focus from the eastern Mediterranean, where the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group was headed to meet the USS Gerald R. Ford off the coast of Israel, to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and other Middle Eastern waterways.
In addition to sending a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence battery and Patriot missile defence system battalions to various places across the region, Austin also issued “prepare to deploy” orders for a large number of extra forces.
Ryder vowed that the military will “continue to do what is necessary to protect and safeguard our forces” It’s true that “no one wants to see a wider regional conflict,” but rest assured that “we will not hesitate to protect our forces.”