Since May, the Pentagon has dispatched 14,000 additional U.S. troops, an aircraft carrier, and tens of thousands of pounds of military equipment to the Middle East to respond to what it says are alarming new threats from Iran. But despite the stepped-up U.S. military posture, the top U.S. general in the region believes the Iranian threat continues to rise—and Tehran is likely to continue lashing out.
“I think the strike on Saudi Aramco in September is pretty indicative of a nation that is behaving irresponsibly,” said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, in a Friday interview, referring to the Sept. 14 Iran-sponsored attack on Saudi facilities that took half of Riyadh’s oil production offline.
“My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again.”
McKenzie, who stepped into his new job in March, assumed command of the world’s most volatile theater at a particularly turbulent time. Over the past eight months, the Taliban has intensified attacks in Afghanistan, Turkey invaded northeast Syria, the Islamic State has threatened to resurge, and Yemen continues to be the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. But Iran is the one common thread undermining regional stability through direct attacks on its neighbors, supporting disruptive proxies such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and increasingly penetrating Iraq and Syria.