U.S. General Throws Mike Pompeo’s Iran Policy Under the Bus

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The US Army commander in the Middle East said that the maximum pressure campaign against Iran "actually has no military component," and reversed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's comments in January.
The U.S. forces killed Maj. Gen. Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani when he arrived in Baghdad on January 3 and triggered a round of direct US-Iranian clashes.
Pompeo promoted the assassination as part of its "Maximum Printing" signature campaign, which aims to force Iran to change a variety of its domestic and foreign policies.
"It has a diplomatic component, it has an economic component, and it has a military component," he told reporters on January 7, referring to print policy.
But General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, withdrew Pompeo's claims during a speech at the Middle East Institute last week.
"We are actually not directly contributing to the maximum pressure campaign," said the four-star general, who commands the U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia. "Instead, it is our job as the U.S. Central Command to prevent Iran from directly or indirectly acting against the United States or our allies and partners in the region."
State Department officials have sold the Suleimani murder to restore "deterrence" against Iran.
McKenzie warned that Iran could "either directly or indirectly against the United States or our allies and partners in the region" in retaliation for diplomatic and economic pressure.
But he was aware that "there is really no military component of the so-called maximum pressure campaign".
Suleimani's murder and Iranian retaliation were the last direct confrontation between the Iranian and US forces. Congress shortly thereafter voted to limit President Donald Trump's war powers and sent a signal that the U.S. public would not advocate further military escalation.
The Iranian and US forces have clashed several times since the start of the maximum pressure campaign before and after Suleimani's death.
The U.S. Naval Forces began in the Persian Gulf in summer 2019 after several oil tankers exploded off the Iranian coast. The Iranian armed forces shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that is said to have entered Iranian airspace, and Trump came within minutes of ordering armed retaliation.
Iraqi militias supported by Iranians have been blamed for a rocket attack that killed an American translator in December 2019, causing an escalation spiral that led to the murder of Suleimani. Iran then launched ballistic missiles at a US air base in western Iraq and injured over 100 soldiers.
The same Iranian-backed militias killed two other U.S. soldiers in a rocket attack in March.
The Iraqi Parliament has asked the US Armed Forces to leave the country in the face of the US-Iranian clashes.
More rockets hit a US base last week when Iraqi and US officials met for a strategic dialogue in which the two countries agreed on the need to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
However, McKenzie claimed that killing Suleimani prevented Iran from taking further action.
"I would judge that we are in what I would call a controversial deterrent to Iran," he said. "I think the Iranians had to recalculate because they didn't think we would actually take these measures."
Matthew Petti is a national security reporter for National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.
Image: Reuters.
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