WASHINGTON (Press TV) – The U.S. military plans to keep two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has announced, claiming the move is aimed at deterring Iran from taking retaliatory action for what he described as "defensive” air strikes against Iraqi installations days ago.
"We’re going to keep [the carriers] for a while” to signal to Iran that retaliation would bring a massive response, said Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie at a Friday news conference in the U.S. defense department, referring to USS Eisenhower and USS Truman warships and alleging – without providing any evidence – that a recent attack on U.S.-occupied Taji military base near Baghdad was conducted by what Washington commonly propagates as "Iran-backed militia” in Iraq.
According to the U.S.-based military news outlet Task & Purpose, when McKenzie was challenged by its reporter on the "defensive” nature of the American air strikes on installations of Iraqi military’s Popular Mobilization Units across the country, he insisted on his claim arguing that they strikes would effectively "prevent future attacks” on U.S. troops.
"Actually… I think these attacks are designed to prevent future attacks on us, which would be the definition of a defensive action. Clearly, dropping a bomb is in of itself an offensive tactical action – but in the broader context these are designed to be defensive strikes,” said the hawkish CENTCOM commander.
According to Iraqi officials, three Iraqi soldiers, two policemen, one civilian and no "militiamen” were killed during the U.S. air strikes, which Baghdad censured as a violation of its sovereignty and targeted aggression against its regular armed forces.
The report further underlined that while the U.S. military has attributed "a total of 12 rocket attacks” on U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq over the past six months to the nation’s PMU forces, McKenzie "did not elaborate on what evidence he based that conclusion on.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon identified the two U.S. troops killed as Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, 27, of Hanford, California, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of Owasso, Oklahoma.
The report then quoted McKenzie as saying that U.S. military officials also believe that the recent airstrikes on PMU’s installation will "have an effect on deterring future strikes of this nature.”
"We’ve seen in the past what happens when you don’t respond,” he said. "Now people know that we’re not going to tolerate these direct attacks on American or coalition service members – and we’re willing and able to respond.”
On Saturday, however, multiple rockets struck the U.S.-occupied Taji military base yet again, according to press reports citing Iraqi and U.S. security sources, adding that three American troops and several Iraqi forces were injured in the apparently retaliatory attack.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command later announced that 33 Katyusha rockets were launched near a section of the Taji base that houses U.S.-led coalition forces in the country. It further noted that the military found seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets in the nearby Abu Izam area.
It also said several Iraqi air defense servicemen were critically wounded.
Pointing to U.S. insistence that its latest aerial strikes on Iraqi military targets would deter future attacks on its forces, a Reuters report on Saturday said, "Not only did the [U.S.] retaliatory strikes
to curb the virus outbreak one can mention spontaneous movements to sanitize public places, including banks’ ATMs, producing special masks, free distribution of disinfectants, and even attending health centers, clinics and hospitals to help nurses and other health workers in their drive to treat patients and provide health services to the public.
A video emerged on social media on March 1 showing a responsible Iranian woman disinfecting an ATM in line with collective efforts currently underway to contain the spread of coronavirus in Iran.
The video, recorded in the city of Khorramabad, shows an Iranian woman painstakingly disinfecting a bank’s ATM to do her part in preventing further spread of the deadly virus.
Iran’s firefighters and medical teams have been incessantly spraying disinfectant solutions to sanitize the streets of various Iranian cities, from the capital Tehran all the way to the northeastern shrine city of Mashhad as part of nationwide campaign to curb the virus outbreak and mitigate its spread.