British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that "there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria." In a rare rebuke of an allied military leader, U.S. Central Command said Ghika's comments "run counter to the identified credible threats" from "Iranian-backed forces in the region."
"Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington," specifically from National Security Adviser John Bolton, The New York Times reports. One American official told the Times that "the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was 'small stuff,'" and "the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States."
The Trump administration's "anti-Iran push has proved difficult even among the allies, which remember a similar campaign against Iraq that was led in part by Mr. Bolton and was fueled by false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," the Times reports. "Privately, several European officials" suggested Bolton and fellow Iran hawk Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are "pushing an unsuspecting" President Trump toward war with Iran "before the president realizes it."
On Monday, Pompeo "unsuccessfully crashed a gathering of European foreign ministers, hoping to gin up a united front on Iran" but leaving rebuked, Ishaan Tharoor writes at The Washington Post. Spain announced Tuesday it's "withdrawing a frigate from a U.S.-led naval group in the Persian Gulf because Madrid wanted no part in an explicitly anti-Iran mission." Iraqi officials told the Times they are also skeptical of U.S. intelligence Pompeo shared about purported threats to U.S. facilities and personnel. Peter Weber