Iran temporarily 'deterred' in Iraq and Syria but not elsewhere, Centcom head says

US needs to step up development of microwave-directed energy systems to counter drones and missiles, Gen Michael Kurilla says

A Houthi supporter holds up a mock drone during a protest against the US and Israel in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA
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Iran has been temporarily deterred from conducting attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria but its support for Hamas and Hezbollah continues unabated, the head of US Central Command said on Thursday.

Gen Michael Kurilla outlined a grim picture of the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and its subsequent war in Gaza, pointing to attacks by Iran-backed militant groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, as well as threats to maritime traffic in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

“The events of October 7 not only permanently changed Israel and Gaza – it created the conditions for malign actors to sow instability throughout the region and beyond,” Gen Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Iran exploited what they saw as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the Middle East to their advantage.”

On January 28, Iran-backed militants killed three US troops at a base in Jordan after conducting more than 150 strikes against American forces in Iraq and Syria since October 7.

Retaliatory strikes in Iraq have deterred Iranian proxies there for the moment, Gen Kurilla said. The National earlier reported that Iraqi militias backed by Iran have halted their attacks against US forces in the region in the context of an “unannounced truce” that involves Tehran and the Iraqi government.

“They are deterred right now in Iraq and Syria and their support to the Iranian-aligned militia groups in terms of attacks, but not necessarily in terms of their funding and equipping,” Gen Kurilla said told senators.

US launches retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed targets in Iraq and Syria – video

US launches retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed targets in Iraq and Syria

US launches retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed targets in Iraq and Syria

Militants have not attacked US forces in Iraq or Syria since February 4, but Gen Kurilla cautioned that “deterrence is always temporary” and said Iran is not deterred in its backing of Hezbollah, the Houthis and Hamas.

The US has been leading an international response to near daily Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and has shot down dozens of drones and missiles.

Gen Kurilla said the US needs to increase the production of directed energy weapons such as lasers and microwave beams so it can more cost-effectively tackle threats from drones and missiles in places like the Red Sea.

He said such systems are already deployed in the region and could potentially save the US taxpayer a lot of money given that interceptor missiles can cost up to $5 million each.

“We want to get directed energy for a cost $1 or $2 a round. We do have those right now in the Middle East that the army has provided us,” Gen Kurilla said.

Updated: March 07, 2024, 8:24 PM