Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, told NBC News that rather than diminishing, the threat from Iran and its proxies has grown and he considers the threat “imminent.”
“I think the threat is imminent,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told NBC News. “We continually evaluate our force posture in the region.”
Citing potential threats from Iran and its proxies, the military deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East region last month. The increased military presence comes at the same time the U.S. continues to exert a “maximum pressure” campaign against the regime, targeting its financial industry.
McKenzie said that despite the increased military presence, the threat has not diminished.
“I don’t actually believe the threat has diminished,” McKenzie said. “I believe the threat is still very real.”
“I would say the threat has probably evolved in certain ways even as our defensive posture has changed and become more aggressive,” he added.
The threat is multi-faceted as Iran apparently gave the green light to its proxies to attack American targets.
Last month, U.S. officials said that the decision to beef up military forces in the region was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces that they can now target American military personnel and assets.
The intelligence shows that an Iranian official discussed activating Iranian-backed groups to target Americans, but did not mention targeting the militaries of other nations, the officials said.
Among the specific threats the U.S. military is now tracking, officials say, are possible missile attacks by Iranian dhows, or small ships, in the Persian Gulf and region; attacks in Iraq by Iranian-trained Shiite militia groups; and attacks against U.S. ships and against Saudi Arabia by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The economic pressure on Iran from Trump sanctions is slowly strangling its economy. The “Obama recovery” in Iran following the nuclear deal gave the regime some badly needed breathing room with their restless population.
The pressure has pushed Iran’s economy to the brink. Double-digit growth was replaced by an economic downturn, as Iran’s oil exports plunged. Inflation spiked 31% in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund.
As of March, the unemployment rate of 15-to-24-years living in cities was at 31.5%, according to the official website of the quasi-government-run Statistical Center of Iran.
As the value of the Iranian rial drops, the price of goods has skyrocketed, with red meat and poultry climbing by 57%, vegetables by 47% and milk, cheese and eggs by 37%, according to the Statistical Center of Iran.
Attacking America or its forces in the region would be suicidal and Iran knows it. But a military confrontation with the U.S. might be just the thing the government needs to whip up the fanaticism of their supporters and stave off the unrest that has been building among the population.
But even a military conflict with America won’t save the economy. As long as the U.S. can maintain sanctions and convince its allies not to undermine them, Iran’s economy is living on borrowed time.