WASHINGTON — President Trump warned Iran on Wednesday that he would maintain it accountable “if one American is killed” in rocket assaults in Iraq that the Trump administration and army officers blamed on Tehran.
In a Twitter submit that got here after a gathering with senior officers on the White Home, Mr. Trump mentioned that Iran was behind rocket assaults on the American Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday. “Some pleasant well being recommendation to Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “If one American is killed, I’ll maintain Iran accountable. Assume it over.”
His submit was adopted by a assertion from United States Central Command, which referred to as the assaults on Sunday the most important in a decade. “The Dec. 20, 2020, rocket assault on the inexperienced zone in Iraq was nearly actually carried out by an Iranian-backed rogue militia group,” Capt. Invoice City, a spokesman for Central Command, mentioned within the assertion. He added that the 21-rocket assault was “clearly NOT meant to keep away from casualties.”
The assault killed at the very least one Iraqi civilian and broken the embassy compound. It provides to the rising tensions between the US and Iran within the waning days of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Final month, the president was dissuaded from hanging Iran after his aides warned that it may escalate right into a broader battle in his final weeks in workplace.
In these discussions, Mr. Trump broached the thought of attacking Iran to drive it to cease rising its nuclear program. Such an assault can be a big blow to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who desires to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, the signature overseas coverage achievement of the Obama administration that Mr. Trump pulled out of in 2018. Such a strike on the eve of a brand new administration may poison relations with Tehran a lot that reviving the deal can be not possible.
A strike in retaliation for rocket assaults in Iraq may additionally hurt future relations, although more than likely not as a lot as a strike on an Iranian nuclear facility, a Protection Division official mentioned. However the official, talking on the situation of anonymity as a result of the White Home assembly was personal, mentioned that the choice coming from that assembly on Wednesday was to stay to stern verbal warnings for now.
Since Mr. Trump dismissed Mark T. Esper as his protection secretary final month, together with different high Pentagon aides, Protection Division and different nationwide safety officers have privately expressed worries that the president would possibly provoke operations, whether or not secret or overt, towards Iran and different adversaries on the finish of his time period.
Officers say a strike might be inevitable if any Individuals are killed earlier than Inauguration Day. The officers have been particularly nervous concerning the Jan. 3 anniversary of the American strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iraqi chief of an Iranian-backed militia — deaths that Iranian leaders commonly insist they haven’t but avenged.
In Iraq, rocket assaults that the US has lengthy mentioned had been linked to Iran are a staple. However Pentagon officers fear that any uptick in such assaults may give Mr. Trump a cause to retaliate. “America will maintain Iran accountable for the deaths of any Individuals that outcome from the work” of Iranian-backed militias, the Central Command assertion mentioned.
Up to now two weeks, Central Command has flown B-52 bombers within the area in a present of drive, despatched an additional squadron of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, stored the plane provider Nimitz within the space, and introduced that it’s sending a Tomahawk-firing submarine. All of those measures, army officers mentioned, are within the identify of deterrence.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.