US Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie warned Iran on Tuesday of the “high cost of any malign activities” in the Gulf, bringing up the “events of January,” when the US killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The US has “established a posture… designed to deter Iran from acting either indirectly or directly against United States, partner, or coalition forces (in the Gulf),” McKenzie said during a special briefing via telephone.
He stressed that Tehran understands the capabilities of the US as a “global power,” adding: “I would argue that after the events of January, Iran is newly sensitive to our will and our willingness to employ those forces should we be threatened by their malign activities.”
“So we are postured and we will continue to be postured in the region, working closely with all our partners, all our friends in the region, to ensure that we’re ready and Iran sees very clearly what would be the – what would be the high cost of any malign activity on their part.”
Special Briefing via Telephone from the Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub with General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., CENTCOM Commander, July 14, 2020https://t.co/koIzyaATG2 pic.twitter.com/78JLx7TQVr— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) July 14, 2020
Tensions between Washington and Tehran, which have been increasing since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, reached historic heights in January when the US killed Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in an airstrike in Baghdad.
Asked about whether the Iranian regime was truly "deterred" by the killing of Soleimani or whether it was waiting out the upcoming UN arms embargo vote or the US presidential election to make its move, McKenzie said that Washington has clearly established "red lines" for Tehran that might "not have been visible" to the regime before.
He added that it's highly likely the UN's vote on whether or not to extend the arms embargo against Tehran is a factor in the regime's calculation, but said: "But to be honest with you, it’s very hard to know and understand exactly what Iran’s thinking is, and I would say that’s even been more manifest after the death of Qassem Soleimani. I think it’s been harder for them to come to decisions and harder for them to decide on a clear path forward."