U.S. Says Threat From Iran Still High After U.S. Retaliatory Strikes in Iraq

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 Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, talks to journalists about the military response to rocket attacks that killed two U.S. and one U.K. service members in Iraq during a news briefing at the Pentagon March 13, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia
Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, addresses reporters on Iraq strike, while exercising social distancing, March 13, 2020 Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

The threat from Iran is still high, even after the United States carried out retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq blamed for killing U.S. and British forces in a rocket attack this week, a top U.S. general said on Friday.

Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, said he believed the U.S. retaliatory strikes against five weapons storage facilities in Iraq would deter "future strikes of this nature."

But he did not suggest any easing of the risk from Iran and Iran-backed groups in the days following January's state-on-state exchanges, which saw the United States kill a top Iranian general and Iran's missile strikes in Iraq cause brain injuries in more than 100 U.S. troops.

"I think the threat remains very high. I think the tensions have actually not gone down," McKenzie told a Pentagon news briefing

Iraq condemns

Iraq's military condemned overnight U.S. air strikes on Friday, saying they had killed six people and describing them as a violation of sovereignty and a targeted aggression against the nation's formal armed forces.

The United States said it carried out the series of strikes on Thursday against an Iran-backed militia in Iraq that it blamed for a rocket attack a day earlier which killed two American troops and a British soldier.

"The pretext that this attack came as a response to the aggression that targeted the Taji base is a false pretext; one that leads to escalation and does not provide a solution," Iraq's Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

"This action is against the will of the Iraqi state and a violation of its sovereignty, it strengthens outlaws. No party has the right to substitute itself for the state, its sovereignty, or its legitimate decisions."

It said that as well as the six killed, 12 people had been wounded in the U.S. air strikes.

The Pentagon said the strikes targeted five weapons stores used by Kataib Hezbollah fighters, including facilities housing arms used in past attacks on U.S.-led coalition troops.

The Iraqi military statement said that no paramilitary fighters had been killed. It said three soldiers, two policemen and one civilian were killed, according to an initial toll, and that the wounded included four soldiers, two policemen, a civilian, and five militiamen.

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