Iran has signaled it is prepared to counterattack in response to any US strike on its soil or assets abroad, as the world still awaits the coming White House response to the Sunday drone attack on the American base in Jordan (Tower 22) which killed three US soldiers and wounded over 40.
The Guardian reported Tuesday that a ‘warning’ over red lines has been issued via diplomatic channels. “Iran has told the US via intermediaries that if it strikes Iranian soil directly, Tehran will itself hit back at American assets in the Middle East, drawing the two sides into a direct conflict,” according to the report.
The Islamic Republic remains on ‘high alert’ – while in Iraq one of the main Shia militias in Iraq which is believed responsible for the killing of the Americans, Kataib Hezbollah, announced it is suspending all operations against US troops and bases in Iraq and Syria.
“We announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces,” Kataib Hezbollah said in the statement. The group said it was motivated in large part because it did not want to cause “embarrassment to the Iraqi government.” The Iraqi government has lately clarified its stance that it wants to immediately see all US and Western coalition forces exit the country on a permanent basis.
The announcement was immediately subject of much speculation. Is it a ploy to buy more time? Is it a last-ditch effort toward peace? Is it a deception? Most US media pundits looked upon it as meaningless.
The US administration’s response has essentially been that it’s ‘too late’ and President Biden has already made the decision. Given no attack came in the overnight hours, there’s a likelihood it will happen tonight.
The Pentagon has indicated it is ignoring the Kataib Hezbollah message and that it won’t change the US plans for a major response. Kataib Hezbollah has at no point taken credit for the Tower 22 attack, while US officials have said it has the “footprint” of the group linked to Iran. And more from Tehran officials…
“We hear threats coming from US officials, we tell them that they have already tested us and we now know one another, no threat will be left unanswered,” the Commander in Chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami said on Wednesday. “The enemies have prepared wars against Iran in all fields, militarily, economically, in the media, and psychologically.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh echoed Biden in placing ultimate responsibility (albeit indirectly) on Iran. “In terms of attribution for the attack, we know this is an [Iran]-backed militia. It has the footprints of Kataib Hezbollah, but [we’re] not making a final assessment,” Singh said at a press briefing. “Iran continues to arm and equip these groups to launch these attacks, and we will certainly hold them responsible.”
Iran says ‘no threat will be left unanswered’ as US response to Jordan attack looms https://t.co/4ugRr7kZ49
— Sharmine Narwani (@snarwani) January 31, 2024
Meanwhile, even while in Iraq and Syria there’s an eerie quiet and lull before storm, the Yemeni Houthis have once again launched missiles at Red Sea vessels. Late Tuesday the Houthis directly targeted a US destroyer which has long been engaged in action there protecting commercial shipping:
An anti-ship cruise missile launched this week from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen was targeting the Navy destroyer that shot it down, making it the second militant attack on a U.S. warship patrolling in the Red Sea in recent days.
At about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, USS Gravely shot down one missile over the Red Sea, U.S. CENTCOM said in a statement Wednesday.
The USS Gravely did not suffer damage nor were there any casualties, while the Houthis took responsibility and vowed more attacks, even after some dozen coalition airstrikes have been launched over the past weeks on Houthi positions.
The Houthis in a fresh statement have vowed more attacks on US and UK warships in the Red Sea, in what’s clearly become an open state of war, despite Biden officials’ insistence that the US is not at “war”.