WASHINGTON — Britain’s Defense Ministry said the comments of one its top generals regarding possible threats from Iran “made it clear” he recognizes possibles threats posed by Tehran in context for the region.
“Major General Chris Ghika speaks as a military officer in the U.S.-led Coalition focused on the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. His comments are based on the day to day military operations and his sole focus is the enduring defeat of Daesh,” the British Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
“Daesh” is the regional term for ISIS.
Ghika is the deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. On Tuesday, he told Pentagon reporters there was no increased threat from pro-Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria.
His remarks were contrary to the drumbeat emanating from the White House and Pentagon regarding alleged upticks in threatening Iranian activities in the region.
“No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika said, speaking by video-link from Baghdad. “We’re aware of their presence, clearly, and we monitor them, along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in.”
His comments were supported Wednesday by his superiors in London.
“The UK has long been clear about our concerns over Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” the UK Defense Ministry said in its statement. “He made it clear there are a range of threats to American and coalition forces in this part of the world.”
U.S. Central Command, responsible for Pentagon operations in the Middle East, said in a rare public rebuke that Ghika’s comments “run counter to identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”
Central Command did not characterize those threats. But in the statement, spokesperson Cpt. Bill Urban said forces in the region are “now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”
Also on Wednesday, the State Department announced it was withdrawing all non-emergency staff from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad consulate in Erbil. It also issued a travel advisory warning US citizens against all travel to Iraq.