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US expects Iran to continue to escalate Israel/Hamas war

Iran wants a bigger war and is attacking US forces to create one, US officials
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26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Art: A Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit fires an M240B machine gun during live fire training aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bataan Arabian Gulf, Sept. 12, 2023.(Cpl. Nayelly Nieves-Nieves/U.S. Marine Corps)

Iran’s proxy forces are trying to widen the war between Israel and Hamas by targeting American forces based in nearby countries, U.S. officials are warning

Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have come under several drone attacks and the destroyer USS Carney destroyed four land attack cruise missiles and 15 drones off the coast of Yemen launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

During an Oct. 22 episode of ABC News’ This Week,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. government is concerned about the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalating.

“What we’re seeing is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region,” Austin said. “And because of that, we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in the right — in a good position, and they’re protected, and that we have the ability to respond.”

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The recent uptick in attacks against U.S. troops in the Middle East has “Iranian fingerprints all over it,” a senior defense official told reporters on Monday.

“We see a prospect for much more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel in the near term,” said the senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under rules established by the Pentagon. “And let’s be clear about it, the road leads back to Iran.  Iran funds, arms, equips and trains militias and proxy forces, all across the region that have consistently undermined the stability, cost in civilian life, and at a cost the entire region of security and stability.”

F-16s in Middle East
The New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron arrived within U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, bolstering U.S. posture to defend U.S. forces and deter further aggression in the region. (Tech. Sgt. Megan Floyd/U.S. Air Force)

Recent announcements about additional U.S. forces being sent to the Middle East show that the U.S. military is “preparing for that escalation,” the senior defense official said.

Austin ordered on Oct. 17 that roughly 2,000 U.S. troops be placed on heightened alert in case they were needed in the Middle East. Those troops would not represent a heavy presence of ground combat troops but would come from units that specialize in air defense; security; logistics; medical; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and transportation capabilities.

Air Force Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, announced on Monday that even more American service members would receive “prepare to deploy orders,” but he did not specify how many.

The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, has not yet launched its expected ground attack on the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based. Several media outlets have reported that U.S. government officials have urged Israel to delay its assault on Gaza to allow negotiations for the release of the Israelis and Americans taken hostage by Hamas to continue.

Hamas has released a total of four hostages so far, including two freed on Monday, but the group may still be holding more than 200 other people, according to media reports.

U.S. military personnel at the American embassy in Israel are providing the Israelis with advice and intelligence to plan hostage rescue missions. Marine Lt. Gen. James Glynn, who led U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command from June 2020 to May 2022, is also in Israel, a defense official confirmed on Tuesday.

Glynn is one of a select few officials with relevant experience whom the Pentagon has asked to “help Israeli officials think through the difficult questions ahead and explore their options,” said the defense official, who added that the Israel Defense Forces always makes its own decisions.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn gives a speech during the Wounded Warrior Regiment change of command on July 14, 2023. (Cpl. Mitchell Johnson/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Associated Press is reporting that Glynn, who led special operations against the Islamic State group and fought in Fallujah, will advise the Israelis how to limit civilian casualties during urban combat.

To protect U.S. Forces in the Middle East, the Pentagon has dispatched a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD battery to the Middle East along with an unspecified number of Patriot missile battalions

U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, announced on Oct. 8 that U.S. Air Force F-15, F-16s and A-10s were being sent to its theater of operations.  A-10 Warthogs with the 354th Fighter Squadron arrived in the CENTCOM theater on Oct. 12.

On Tuesday, F-16 fighters with the 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron also arrived in the region, CENTCOM posted on X.

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group have also been ordered to deploy to the CENTCOM theater.  Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on its Amphibious Ready Group are operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Speaking on Monday at a ceremony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 American service members, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith issued a warning to any adversaries considering attacking the 26th MEU, according to Marine Corps Times.

“For those that are in the area, if that MEU has to go in, if you target them, someone else will raise your children,” Smith said.

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