WASHINGTON — President Trump warned Iran on Wednesday that he would maintain it accountable “if one American is killed” in rocket assaults in Iraq that the Trump administration and army officers blamed on Tehran.
In a Twitter post that got here after a gathering with senior officers on the White House, Mr. Trump mentioned that Iran was behind rocket assaults on the American Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday. “Some friendly health advice to Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”
His put up was adopted by a statement from United States Central Command, which referred to as the assaults on Sunday the most important in a decade. “The Dec. 20, 2020, rocket attack on the green zone in Iraq was almost certainly conducted by an Iranian-backed rogue militia group,” Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for Central Command, mentioned in the assertion. He added that the 21-rocket assault was “clearly NOT intended to avoid casualties.”
The assault killed no less than one Iraqi civilian and broken the embassy compound. It provides to the rising tensions between the United States and Iran in the waning days of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Last month, the president was dissuaded from putting Iran after his aides warned that it might escalate right into a broader battle in his final weeks in workplace.
In these discussions, Mr. Trump broached the thought of attacking Iran to drive it to cease rising its nuclear program. Such an assault can be a major blow to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who desires to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, the signature international coverage achievement of the Obama administration that Mr. Trump pulled out of in 2018. Such a strike on the eve of a brand new administration might poison relations with Tehran a lot that reviving the deal can be unattainable.
A strike in retaliation for rocket assaults in Iraq might additionally hurt future relations, although almost definitely not as a lot as a strike on an Iranian nuclear facility, a Defense Department official mentioned. But the official, talking on the situation of anonymity as a result of the White House assembly was non-public, mentioned that the choice coming from that assembly on Wednesday was to stay to stern verbal warnings for now.
Since Mr. Trump dismissed Mark T. Esper as his protection secretary final month, together with different high Pentagon aides, Defense Department and different nationwide safety officers have privately expressed worries that the president would possibly provoke operations, whether or not secret or overt, towards Iran and different adversaries on the finish of his time period.
Officials say a strike could possibly be inevitable if any Americans are killed earlier than Inauguration Day. The officers have been particularly nervous in regards to the Jan. 3 anniversary of the American strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iraqi chief of an Iranian-backed militia — deaths that Iranian leaders often insist they haven’t but avenged.
In Iraq, rocket assaults that the United States has lengthy mentioned have been linked to Iran are a staple. But Pentagon officers fear that any uptick in such assaults might give Mr. Trump a purpose to retaliate. “The United States will hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans that result from the work” of Iranian-backed militias, the Central Command assertion mentioned.
In the previous two weeks, Central Command has flown B-52 bombers in the area in a present of drive, despatched an additional squadron of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, saved the plane provider Nimitz in the world, and introduced that it’s sending a Tomahawk-firing submarine. All of these measures, army officers mentioned, are in the identify of deterrence.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.