Two senior cabinet members of the Biden Administration have warned Iran and its allies against any further escalation of the Israel-Hamas war after American forces deployed in the Middle East started receiving growing threats of attack.
In an interview with ABC News on Oct. 22, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon increased its military readiness and announced the evacuation of non-essential personnel from its embassy in Iraq after recent rocket and drone strikes on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria. Armed factions in Iraq, closely linked to Iran, have vowed to target U.S. interests after Washington declared its support for Israel. (Related: Defense officials warn: Iran could use Israel-Palestine chaos as an “opportunity” to attack American forces all over the Middle East.)
"In fact, what we're seeing is the prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region, and because of that, we're going to do what's necessary to make sure that our troops are in a good position, they're protected, and that we have the ability to respond."
Moreover, Austin warned the public against any attempts to widen the ongoing conflict.
"If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see, our advice is: don't," Austin declared. He further emphasized the United States' right to self-defense and its willingness to take appropriate action.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken echoed Austin's statements to protect American troops in a separate interview with CBS News on that same day.
"We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if we need to," Blinked said. "This is not what we want, not what we're looking for. We don't want escalation. We don't want to see a second or third front develop. We don't want to see our forces or our personnel come under fire, but if that happens, we're ready for it."
These statements from top U.S. officials follow increased tensions and fears that pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, or other groups supported by Iran, might exploit the situation in Gaza to expand the conflict and place additional strain on Israel's military capabilities.
Of course, Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat won't let that happen. Barkat warned both Hezbollah and Iran that if Palestinian militants opened a "northern front," they would eliminate Hezbollah and target Iran.
"The plan of Iran is to attack Israel on all fronts. If we find they intend to target Israel, we will not just retaliate on those fronts, but we will go to the head of the snake, which is Iran. The ayatollahs in Iran are not going to sleep well at night if they move against Israel."
Barkat even said that both Lebanon and Hezbollah would face similar consequences as Hamas. "Israel has a very clear message to our enemies. We are saying to them, look at what is happening in Gaza—you are going to get the same treatment if you attack us. We are going to wipe you off the face of the earth," Barkat warned.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also weighed in and said that Hezbollah would suffer "unprecedented destruction" if it officially joined the conflict against Israel.
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Watch this clip of Sen. Lindsey Graham threatening to "blow up" Iranian oil supplies if Tehran is drawn into the conflict with Israel.