WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and on Thursday, he explained to Kurdistan 24 his support for President Donald Trump’s tough position on Iran.
Asked about relations between the White House and Congress on the issue, McCaul replied, “Very good.” He had been briefed on the issue, and the White House sees Iran, “particularly, as of late, as a specific threat.”
McCaul further explained that the information prompting the US military deployments to the Persian Gulf came from human intelligence, USA Today reported on Friday.
Specifically, Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told Iran’s militia proxies in Iraq, as well as Lebanese Hezbollah, to be prepared for a confrontation with the US, McCaul said.
Indeed, on Sunday, a rocket was fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to Iraqi government offices, as well as foreign diplomatic missions, including the US embassy.
US President Donald Trump tweeted his response, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” Subsequently, a State Department spokesman confirmed, “A low-grade rocket did land within the International Zone near the U.S. Embassy,” adding, “attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner.”
The Guardian was the first source to reveal the reason for the US alert on Iran and the dispatch of forces to the region.
Citing two intelligence sources, the British paper reported on Thursday that Soleimani had “summoned” to Tehran the leaders of Iraqi militias under Iranian influence and told them to “prepare for a proxy war.”
Britain was “central” to the renewed concerns about Iran, The Guardian said, raising the possibility that British intelligence was the source of the alarming information concerning Soleimani’s meeting with the Iraqi militia leaders.
There is precedent for such figures to attack Coalition forces. In 2007, a Shia militia close to Iran, Asa’ib Ahl-al Haq, headed by Qais al-Khazali, kidnapped and killed five US soldiers.
Khazali was soon captured and imprisoned by the Coalition, but he was released in 2010, in exchange for a British hostage who had been abducted by his militia.
In the course of the fight against the Islamic State, Iraq’s Shia militias rose to new prominence. Khazali did fairly well in last year’s elections. He is now a parliamentarian and commands 15 seats in Iraq’s National Assembly.
Like Trump, McCaul, in speaking with Kurdistan 24, took a tough line on Iran. “Any country that attacks our military forces will be met with a swift and deadly response.”
He suggested that Iran’s bellicosity was driven by the difficulties it is now experiencing as a result of US sanctions.
“They’re starting to cripple Iran,” he said, and this “looks like an act of desperation to me.”
Speaking at The Heritage Foundation on Friday, McCaul, who previously chaired the House Committee on Homeland Security, revealed that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) “had a lot of scientists who worked at Mosul University,” and they provided the technical expertise for AQAP’s terrorism.
McCaul’s statement marked the first time a US official revealed that Iraqis were closely involved with the terrorist organization. Rather, AQAP had been generally seen as dominated by Yemenis and Saudis.
McCaul also said that the Sahel—the semi-arid belt crossing Africa from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean that divides the Sahara desert from the more fertile region to the south—appears to be the next theater of conflict.
Although the Islamic State is “going underground in Iraq and Syria,” he said, it is appearing elsewhere, “particularly in the Sahel.”
“If you talk to the Defense Department,” he continued, “they’ll tell you that this is going to be the next hot spot.”
On Thursday, Alpha Barry, the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, one of the Sahel countries, addressed the UN Security Council, and called for the creation of an international counterterrorism coalition, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, to fight the growing violence.
Barry blamed the Sahel’s increasing instability on the chaotic situation in Libya, where the long-time dictator, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, was overthrown in 2011.
“Libya is still a breeding ground of terrorists and criminals of all stripes, and is thus the main destabilizing element in our region,” Barry said.
Editing by Nadia Riva