The US will “go to the source” if Iranian proxies attack American targets and interests in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday.
“We have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack an American interest will not prevent us from responding against the prime actor,” he told CNN. “That is, we will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.”
Asked if this included a military response, he repeated: “They’re going to be held accountable. If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re gonna go to the source.”
Washington has blamed an Iran-backed militia for a mortar attack earlier this month near the US embassy in Baghdad. But Pompeo stresses that Tehran’s influence on anti-American operations was felt throughout the region.
“Iran has been confronting the world as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror for quite some time,” he said. “They have armed militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Makateeb Hezbollah — militias in Iraq, they’re arming the Houthis in Yemen, launching missiles into the Gulf states.”
He said the US, which in May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, “has begun to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent them from doing this, that’s our mission.”
On Friday Iran’s air force held a drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea, the country’s official IRNA news agency said.
IRNA said the maneuver was a warning to Iran’s enemies that they face a “stern response” if they threaten Iran. The exercise was part of annual demonstrations on the anniversary of the start of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that began in 1980.
But it also came after Tehran’s recent threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the country was blocked from exporting its crude because of US pressure and renewed sanctions.
Crushing US oil sanctions on Iran will resume in early November and American allies in Asia are already cutting back on their purchases of Iranian crude.
In July, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that if renewed sanctions threatened Iran’s crude oil exports, the rest of the Mideast’s exports would be threatened as well.
AP contributed to this report.