US forces have been repeatedly targeted by missiles and drones since the Israel-Gaza conflict began on Oct. 7.
“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.
Ryder, however, stated 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.”
On Sunday, senior Joe Biden administration officials including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned of the risk of significant escalation in attacks on American troops in the Middle East and of “Iran seeking to widen the Israel-Hamas war”.
At the weekend, Austin ordered new air defenses to the Middle East to safeguard troops. He noted the Pentagon will send a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions to the region.
The United States has also sent warships and fighter aircraft to the region to try “to deter Iran and Tehran-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 stressed.
Iranian officials have repeatedly advised the United States to take its military forces out of Syria and Iraq.