US Troops Face 'Constant Threat' as Iran Vows Revenge on Israel for Attack

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Addressing the warnings at a virtual press briefing Monday, National Security Council Strategic Communicators Coordinator John Kirby declined to go into specific intelligence matters but reiterated President Joe Biden's assurances that "the Israeli government could count on the United States' support for any self-defense needs against threats directly by Iran to Israel, threats that Iran has made public," and discussed preparations for potential risks to U.S. personnel as well.


"Our own people, not just our troops, but our diplomatic personnel as well in Iraq and Syria, are under constant threat," Kirby said. "We take that seriously and we take the appropriate force protection measures we need to as the threat changes to make sure that they can protect themselves, and that has not changed. That will not change.

"We're continuing to do that. But we take the threat to our people in our own facilities seriously and we know that that those groups, many of the groups that conduct those kinds of attacks, are supported, funded, resourced by the IRGC."

The IRGC, or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is one of three primary branches of the Iranian Armed Forces, along with the army, which, like the IRGC, includes ground, naval, air and missile branches, and the Law Enforcement Force. Branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2019, the IRGC and its elite Quds Force conduct operations abroad and coordinate with an international coalition of militias known as the "Axis of Resistance," including in Iraq and Syria.

Such groups have targeted Israel and U.S. troops since the war in the Gaza Strip erupted six months ago between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian Hamas movement, and Israel has targeted Iran-aligned units in Syria as part of a years-long, semi-covert campaign.


But the deaths of up to seven Iranian personnel, including two top IRGC commanders, in an attack widely attributed to Israel last week at the Iranian embassy's consular section in Damascus has elicited guarantees of a severe response by Iranian officials.


Among the latest threats came Monday from Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as he visited Damascus to oversee the inauguration of a new consular section of the impacted Iranian Embassy and meet with top officials including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has bolstered its presence in Syria since intervening in support of Assad's government against rebels and jihadis in an ongoing civil war that erupted in 2011.

Speaking with the Syrian leader on Monday, Iran's top diplomat pointed to "the insanity of the Zionist regime and added that our response to the Zionist regime and its punishment is certain." Amir-Abdollahian also spoke of "conveying the message of our country to the United States as a full-fledged support of the Zionist regime and directly response for its crimes and actions," according to a readout provided by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The readout also cited Assad as saying that "the punishment of the Zionist regime is that we strengthen the Axis of Resistance as much as possible."


This readout and a separate one shared by Assad's office also discussed mutual solidarity for Palestinians at war in Gaza.

Other top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammed Hossein Baqeri have asserted that the attack would not go unanswered. No Iranian official has disclosed the time, location or method of such retaliation.

Iranian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Amir Saeid Iravani declined Newsweek's request for comment until "after Iran's response to the Israeli regime." The IDF declined Newsweek's request to comment, neither confirming nor denying its role in the strike in Syria.

The IDF has, however, announced new heightened readiness measures, including the temporary cancellation of leave for all combat units, in response to the Iranian threats. After the IDF announced the withdrawal of forces from southern Gaza, Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi warned that Israel was still very much in the midst of a "different kind of war, unlike those that came before it," and took direct aim at Iran.


"The IDF knows how to deal with Iran—offensively and defensively. We are prepared for this, we have good defensive systems, and we know how to act forcefully against Iran in both near and distant places," Halevi said. "We are operating in cooperation with the USA and strategic partners in the region.

"Since the beginning of the war, Iran has tried to distance itself from direct involvement in it, but we know that it activates, directs, funds and transfers knowledge to all its proxies in the region—from Hezbollah, through Judea and Samaria, to Yemen. Iran not only threatens Israel but the entire Western and Arab world. Iran is a global problem. It was and remains the biggest issue."

Kirby has also declined questions regarding the position of President Joe Biden's administration on the attack in Damascus, telling reporters Monday only that "we weren't involved in any way whatsoever."

He called on Tehran to put pressure on Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal after a new proposal was offered to the group following talks held in Egypt and mediated by Qatar.

We has also reached out to U.S. Central Command for comment.

Meanwhile, an unofficial ceasefire between Axis of Resistance groups and U.S. forces has largely held since Biden ordered an intensive series of strikes against militias in Iraq and Syria in response to the killing of three U.S. troops at the Jordan-Syria border in January. The Biden administration has also entered into talks with Iraqi leadership regarding the future of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, and the topic is expected to come up as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani makes his first visit to Washington next week.

Axis of Resistance forces, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and Yemen's Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthi movement, have continued to claim attacks on Israel.


The Islamic Resistance in Iraq announced on Sunday that it had struck the IDF's "Al-Yafat Base" near the Sea of Galilee with drones "in continuation of our approach to resisting the occupation, in support of our people in Gaza, and in response to the massacres committed by the usurping entity against Palestinian civilians, including children, women and the elderly."

That same day, Ansar Allah military spokesperson Yahya Saree claimed the targeting of one "British ship," the Marshall Islands-flagged Hope Island, in the Red Sea and "two Israeli ships," the Panama-flagged MSC Grace F and MSC Gina, in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, respectively, using missiles and drones. He also said claimed the group "carried out two military targeting a number of American military frigates in the Red Sea."

Saree said that Ansar Allah would "persist with their military operations, enforcing a blockade on Israeli navigation in the Red and Arabian Seas and the Indian Ocean until a ceasefire is achieved and the siege is lifted in Gaza."

Hezbollah, for its part, has continued to engage in daily exchanges of cross-border fire with Israel. The group has claimed attacks on at least four IDF positions throughout Monday, including in the disputed Shebaa Farms region, near the southern Lebanese villages of Kfar Shuba and Yarine and near the northern Israeli kibbutz of Hanita.


The attacks were said to have been conducted "in support of our steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and in support of their valiant and honorable resistance."

The IDF, which earlier claimed the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in an airstrike conducted in the Sultaniyeh region of southern Lebanon overnight on Monday, also announced further aerial raids against various Hezbollah sites, including in Kfar Kila, Kfar Chouba and Odaisseh.

In a video address delivered Monday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah lauded the ongoing attacks against Israel on multiple fronts and condemned the attack that killed Iranian personnel in Syria, arguing that retaliation was "the natural right of Iran and it is natural for the Islamic Republic to make this response, but, of course, everyone is waiting for what will happen and the repercussions of what will happen."

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.

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