US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the United States has reestablished some deterrence toward Iran. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the United States has reestablished some deterrence toward Iran in the wake of the January 3 drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. “I think at this point with the strikes we took against KH in late December and then our actions with regard to Soleimani, I believe that we’ve restored a level of deterrence with them,” he told reporters, referring to Kataeb Hezbollah, an armed Iraqi group backed by Iran.
“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.
This came after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing American and other coalition forces in retaliation for the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Qasem Soleimani, the popular head of the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm, was killed in a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on Friday, ratcheting up tensions between the arch-foes.
On Wednesday, President Trump offered to embrace peace with the Iranian leadership, in a significant move to de-escalate spiralling tensions in the Middle East.
In a direct message to the Iranian leaders and the people, Trump said the United States was “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it”.
“To the people and leaders of Iran, we want you to have a future and a great future, one that you deserve,” the president said.
Trump said Iran appeared to be standing down, which was a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.
“For far too long, all the way back to 1979 to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilising behaviour in the Middle East and beyond. Those days are over,” he said, adding that peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment terrorism.
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, however, dismissed suggestions that Iran did not intend to kill Americans with its missile barrage, which struck the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.
“But we took sufficient defensive measures that there were no casualties to US personnel, coalition personnel, contractors or Iraqis.” Esper also downplayed the firing of two rockets into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone late Wednesday, where the US and other foreign embassies are located and many US troops are based.
“We should have some expectation that the Shia militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there, either politically or, you know, take some type of kinetic actions against us or do Lord-knows-what,” Esper told reporters.
A top Iraqi paramilitary commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the strike on Soleimani last week.