British general undermines US claims of increased threat from Iran amid military buildup in Middle East and accusations Tehran is behind attacks on tankers and pipelines
- Chris Ghika, British commander of anti-ISIS forces, quizzed about Iranian threat
- He said he had seen ‘no increased threat’ from Iran or proxy groups in the region
- Remark appeared to be at odds with US government, which has accused Iran of sabotaging two Saudi oil tankers and attacking pumping stations
- The US later slapped down Ghika, saying ‘credible threats’ had been identified
Major General Chris Ghika, deputy commander of anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, said he sees no increased Iranian threat
A British commander of anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria has seen ‘no increased threat’ from Iran despite the US insisting the country is behind attacks on its allies.
Major General Chris Ghika, deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters that he was monitoring Iran and its proxy forces but had seen no reason to adjust his stance towards them.
Ghika’s remarks seemed to be at odds with US claims that Iran and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were behind attacks on two Saudi oil tankers and pumping stations.
There are fears that America is squaring up for direct conflict with Iran after two carrier groups were deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
Ghika denied that his remarks were out of step with Washington, though US Central Command later issued a rare rebuke to an allied military officer.
The general’s remarks ‘run counter to the identified credible threats’, a spokesman said, adding: ‘As a result, (the coalition) is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq.’
Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory, one of the four damaged boats, pictured with a large dent in its stern on Monday morning
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said attacks on the pipeline (file picture) from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea took place early this morning and called it ‘an act of terrorism’ that targeted global oil supplies
Fears of all-out conflict jumped this week amid rumours that President Trump was about to deploy 120,000 troops to the region, though he later slapped these down.
‘Would I do that? Absolutely,’ he said. ‘But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that.
‘If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.’
Tensions began building on Sunday when four oil tankers – including two belonging to America’s ally Saudi Arabia – were apparently sabotaged off the UAE coast.
U.S. investigators were asked to get involved and subsequently blamed Iran and its allies, with divers saying it appeared magnetic explosives were used.
That sparked a furious exchange of words between the US and Iran, with a key adviser to Iranian president Rouhani warning of a looming conflict.
He also mocked Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying: ‘That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache.’
President Hassan Rouhani (pictured last night) has warned Iran is ‘too great to be intimidated by anyone’ after the Pentagon claimed Tehran used explosives to sabotage four commercial ships anchored off the UAE coast
Donald Trump is mulling over the idea of sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has warned his country is ‘too great to be intimidated by anyone’. Tensions were increased further today in the region as Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed to have carried out drone attacks on Saudi oil installations
Tensions heightened further Tuesday after two pumping stations on a major Saudi oil pipeline were attacked by explosive-laden drones, halting the flow of crude along it.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said attacks on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea took place early yesterday morning, and called it ‘an act of terrorism’ that targeted global oil supplies.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attack, and said it was carried out using explosive-laden drones.
The Houthis are fighting against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen’s civil war, which has been raging since 2015.
But both sides today tried to calm the situation. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there ‘won’t be any war’ while U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said the U.S. ‘fundamentally does not seek any war’.