Following an increase in attacks in Iraq and Syria by organizations thought to be supported by Iran, the Pentagon stated on Monday that the US has not received a clear instruction from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to strike US forces in the area.
Since Palestinian Hamas militants started targeting southern Israel on October 7, US forces have been the subject of many missile and drone attacks.
“We don’t necessarily see that Iran has explicitly ordered them to take these kinds of attacks,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.
Pressed on the issue, Ryder added: “We haven’t seen a direct order, for example, from the Supreme Leader saying: ‘Go out and do this.’”
Ryder, however, said that the United States ultimately holds Iran responsible for such attacks by militant groups “by virtue of the fact that they are supported by Iran.”
Iranian security officials told Reuters Iran’s strategy was for Middle East proxies like Hezbollah to pursue limited strikes on Israeli and US targets but to avoid a major escalation that would draw in Tehran, a high-wire act for the Islamic Republic.
The United States has also sent warships and fighter aircraft to the region to try to deter Iran and Iran-backed groups from widening the conflict. This includes the deployment of two aircraft carriers and about 2,000 Marines.
“No one wants to see a wider regional conflict, but we will not hesitate to protect our forces,” Ryder said.
In the latest incident, US troops were targeted by two attack drones in Syria on Monday but they were intercepted by base defenses and caused no injuries.