Imminent Threat in Iraq? CENTCOM Says Coalition Forces Are on 'High Level of Alert'
On Tuesday afternoon, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition of forces in Iraq and Syria — Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) — insisted that the forces had seen "no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces." U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) disputed the statement, saying forces are on a "high level of alert."
British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika denied an increased threat in comments reported by Politico. Ghika insisted that his position did not contradict messaging from the White House and the Pentagon. Last week, the Pentagon claimed it had intelligence of impending Iranian-sponsored action against U.S. forces and interests, including in Iraq.
The coalition has observed "no change in their posture since the recent exchange between the United States and Iran and we hope and expect that will continue," Ghika told reporters. He was referring to Shiite militias in Iraq receiving support from Iran. "We don't see an increased threat from them at this stage."
Ghika insisted that his statements do not contradict those coming from the White House and CENTCOM. "We're on exactly the same page," he said. "I don't think we're out of step with the White House at all."
CENTCOM issued a statement shooting down his remarks.
"Recent comments from OIR's Deputy Commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region," U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, lead spokesman for CENTCOM, said in the statement. "U.S. Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq."
Civilian Americans will likely not know the exact nature of the threat unless or until an attack occurs. It remains unclear why Ghika said what he did, but if an attack takes place, coalition forces need to be ready.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.