The threats from Iran against the U.S. have starkly changed over the past four decades and now take the form of a campaign emanating from Yemen, the Persian Gulf and Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“What was qualitatively different about the threat streams we had seen was that they were multiple threat streams that were all, perhaps, coming together in time,” Gen. Joe Dunford said at an event at the Brookings Institution. “What’s not new were the threat streams. What was new was a pattern of threat streams ... emanating from Yemen ... threats in the Gulf and threats in Iraq.”
Instead of individual threats, the intelligence pointed to what looked more like a campaign. "The geographic span and the possibility these activities would be synchronized caused us to look at that threat differently than 40 years … of malign activity by the Iranians,” Dunford said.
Intelligence showed Iranian leaders had a misperception about the how and if of the U.S. responding to these various threat streams, according to Dunford. He and the U.S. Central Command commander recommended the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group at once were ordered into the Centcom area from the Mediterranean Sea. Bombers and Patriot Missile Systems were sent there, too, to “address what I saw a gap in perception,” Dunford said.
Dunford said the planned 1,500 service members going to the region aren’t intended as a provocation but “to protect our people much like the previous force elements were sent in to enhance our deterrence.”