WASHINGTON: The United States warned Iran or its allies against any escalation in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas, two top US officials said on Sunday (Oct 22), hours after the Pentagon moved to step up military readiness in the region.
With tensions mounting, Washington also announced on Sunday it had ordered non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in Iraq.
“We are concerned at the possibility of Iranian proxies escalating their attacks against our own personnel, our own people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CBS News. “We expect there is a likelihood of escalation.”
“No one should take advantage of this moment to escalate to further attacks on Israel or, for that matter, attacks on us on our personnel.”
Blinken said the United States, which has sent two carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean, was “taking every measure to make sure that we can defend them. And if necessary, respond decisively”.
His words doubled down on an earlier message from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who warned of a “prospect of significant escalation of attacks on our troops” in the region.
Their comments came amid growing fears that pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, or other groups supported by Tehran, might take advantage of the tense situation over Gaza to enlarge the conflict and further stretch Israel’s military.
But Austin, speaking to ABC News, issued a stern warning: “If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see, our advice is: don’t.”
“We maintain the right to defend ourselves and we won’t hesitate to take the appropriate action,” he added.