(CNN) Even as the Pentagon remains centered on deterring North Korea and fighting ISIS, multiple US officials tell CNN that Protection Secretary James Mattis is asking planners to take into account what action to take on Iran.
Discussions are taking place on how to use the US army to deter and contain Iranian actions in neighboring countries, short of a direct conflict. The Pentagon hasn’t commented publicly, but one official familiar with the Mattis’s pondering said, “A whole lot of thought has been placed into Iran.”
This comes as the Trump administration is trying to assemble the same as an international diplomatic and economic coalition used, if not in name, to counter what it sees as Iran’s growing influence across the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week convened a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to coordinate US-European cooperation to counter Iran through diplomatic and economic means.
Nobody found in the Trump administration is talking about starting a battle even found in the wake of the tough speak about the Iran nuclear arrangement . But you will find a consensus about the threat of what US officials phone Iran’s “malign influence” across the region.
“What the Iranians did across the broader Middle East is definitely fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take benefit of these chaotic environments, take benefit of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” the National Protection Advisor HR McMaster advised a security forum previous weekend.
We must address what is a developing Iranian capacity and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their purpose, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.
Yemen is becoming a center point for US-Iranian tensions. The US has been assisting a longtime Saudi oxygen campaign targeting Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. A large number of civilians have been killed and the country has been hit by a cholera outbreak and famine.
The dire situation in Yemen has sparked outrage around the world. So if the US really wants to deter Iran’s influence in the country, it would have to send a strong transmission to allies that the Saudis need to end airstrikes that are killing civilians and provide aid.
It may not be directly related but on Wednesday President Donald Trump made a unique humanitarian gesture toward Yemen calling for Saudi Arabia to get rid of its blockade of the country’s ports.
Iran’s apparent direct army support for rebels found in Yemen is an urgent concern. US cleverness analysts have now looked at the remnants of a missile the Houthis fired previous month that landed close to the commercial airport in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. Those remnants indicate the missile was supplied by Iran, and the evaluation may be the launcher and missile training was also supplied by Tehran as part of its effort to challenge the Saudi regime.
US officials as well believe the Iranians continue to ship weapons into Yemen above land smuggling routes through Oman or perhaps by using little boats to sail to Yemeni ports.
Iran’s activities through the entire region are infuriating crucial Administration officials. It’s no top secret that Mattis has very long viewed Iran as a major threat in the centre East. And now CIA director Mike Pompeo — who reports suggest may be the up coming Secretary of State — has fired his individual written shot across the bow.
Pompeo says he wrote an email to Qasem Soleimani, brain of Iran’s Quds Force: “My spouse and i sent it because he previously indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests found in Iraq.”
Pompeo says Soleimani refused to open the letter however the message was still clear. “What we were communicating to him in that letter is that people will hold he and Iran in charge of any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that will be under their control. And we wished to make sure that he and the leadership in Iran comprehended that in a way that was superior.”
While diplomatic and economic efforts such as sanctions will continue, it’s not clear how, or if, the Pentagon can form an effective deterrence or containment approach. Putting more ships, incorporating aircraft carriers, or other assets such as drones into the area as a show of force and efforts to accumulate more military cleverness on Iran, will be typical moves officials claim. But commanders know many assets are designated to current high priorities such as the Korean Peninsula and the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
The challenge is made stiffer by the actual fact the Pentagon is facing an Iranian challenge on multiple fronts. McMaster pointed out that in Iraq and Syria alone: “What they will be in the middle of doing now is definitely using a sophisticated plan of subversion in Iraq and a continuing support for Assad. About 80% of Assad’s fighters will be Iranian proxies in Syria to determine this kind of land bridge over into the Mediterranean therefore what we face is definitely Iran having a proxy army on borders of Israel.”
McMaster added that “what we see may be the weaponization of Iran’s network found in Yemen, found in southern Lebanon, they are trying to do it found in Syria with these long-range missiles and they are increasing the danger that Iran poses to the whole region,” says McMaster.
For the present time, there are no indications the Pentagon has launched any new initiatives on Iran however the county’s neighbors are increasingly worried. US officials claim Jordan can be involved that Iranian backed fighters on Syria’s southwest border could approach close to the Jordanian border.
And Israel may well not be waiting. In the last several days they have introduced airstrikes against suspected Iranian sites inside Syria, according to US officials.