By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – The U.K. has long been clear about concerns over Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday in a bid to clarify recent comments by a British general.
"Maj. Gen. [Chris] Ghika speaks as a military officer in the US-led Coalition focused on the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria," a statement from the ministry said.
“His comments are based on the day-to-day military operations and his sole focus is the enduring defeat of Daesh,” it added.
The ministry underlined that Ghika made clear in the Pentagon briefing that "there are a range of threats to American and Coalition forces in this part of the world. There always have been, that is why we have a very robust range of force protection measures.”
The statement came after the U.S. openly rebuked the general’s challenge to their claims that Iran-backed groups are in preparation of attacks against Western assets in the Middle East.
Ghika, the deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve - the US-led coalition against Islamic State, another name for Daesh, said upon questions from reporters on Tuesday that “there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria".
"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," he said in a Pentagon briefing via video link from Baghdad.
However, a statement from a Pentagon representative stressed the alleged threat later on.
"Recent comments from OIR's Deputy Commander run counter to identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region," said Capt. Bill Urban in a statement.
The U.S. administration has alleged that Iran is in preparation to mount attacks on U.S. assets across the region.
The Donald Trump administration has sent an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles to the region, adding into already high regional tensions.
The U.S. on Wednesday has also ordered the departure of non-emergency embassy employees from Iraq.