In a fiery statement Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned those behind the violence in Iraq that their actions will be met with a full response from American forces.
“Let me speak directly to Iran and to our partners and allies,” Secretary Esper said in his statement. “To Iran and its proxy militias: we will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region. Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities.”
The tensions continue to rise even as the Pentagon orders additional forces to the area. The recent attacks by pro-Iranian protesters on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq have led to hostile standoffs and heated exchanges between President Donald Trump and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After he warned those behind the violence, Esper urged others in the region to maintain a united front.
“To our partners and allies: we must stand together against the malign and destabilizing actions of Iran,” Esper said. “The 81 nations and member organizations of the Defeat ISIS Coalition are in Iraq and Syria, and cooperating around the globe to defeat ISIS.”
Esper then outlined previous successes against terrorists and ISIS:
We have worked closely with our partners in the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces to roll-back the so-called ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria and liberated millions of Iraqis and Syrians. NATO nations are also in Iraq to assist with building the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Although President Trump has been clear that he will not tolerate violent aggression against American forces, he also says he does not want a war. “I don’t see that happening,” Trump said according to Israel Times. “I like peace.”
According to Secretary Esper, Trump’s administration’s commitment to freedom and democracy in the Middle East has produced solid results. “Unlike the Iranians who continue to meddle in Iraq’s internal affairs and seek to use corruption to further Tehran’s malign influence, the United States and our allies are committed to an independent, stable, secure, and sovereign democratic Iraq that addresses the aspirations and needs of the Iraqi people,” Esper said. “We call on our friends and allies to continue to work together to reduce Iran’s destabilizing influence so Iraq is governed by Iraqis without this interference in its internal affairs.”