Austin says Iran trains and funds militias that target US troops

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III stopped short Thursday of blaming Iran for attacks that killed three American servicemen in Jordan on Sunday, but said Tehran trained and funded militia groups that have targeted American troops and commercial shipping in the Middle East.

Mr. Austin, in a rare show of courage, followed up on the Biden administration’s promises of retaliation. Asked why the administration was anticipating a one-day campaign of retaliation, Mr. Austin said Iran-backed militias “have a lot of capabilities.”

He paused and added, “I have a lot more.”

President Biden vowed that the United States would respond to Sunday’s attacks on a remote base used by American troops in Jordan. Killed were Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Ga.; Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia. The Pentagon says 40 US soldiers were wounded.

Biden administration officials say the drone strike crossed a red line and there’s no way the president won’t respond.

Mr. Austin reiterated this during a press conference on Thursday. “We will answer when we choose, where we choose and how we choose,” he said.

Iran has signaled that it will not escalate tensions with the United States. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Tehran “does not seek war”. And Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian militia that U.S. officials believe was responsible for the attack in Jordan, said it would suspend military operations in Iraq, where it operates.

The group said in a statement that it was under pressure from Iran and Iraq to stop attacking US troops.

But the head of the Revolutionary Guard also warned that Iran is ready to respond if attacked.

“You have tested us and we know each other – we will not leave any threat unanswered,” General Hossein Salami, the commander-in-chief of the powerful military organization, was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

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