U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that “over the last couple of months Iranian-backed Shiite militias have repeatedly attacked bases hosting American forces in Iraq… it is clear that these attacks are being directed by the Iranian regime, specifically IRGC leadership”. He added that 29 December strikes against Kataeb Hizbollah bases “were aimed at reducing KH’s ability to launch additional attacks… and to make it clear to Iran and Iranian-backed militias that the U.S. will not hesitate to defend our forces in the region”. Addressing “Iran and its proxy militias”, Esper asserted: “we will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region. Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities”. He further urged U.S. “friends and allies to continue to work together to reduce Iran's destabilising influence so Iraq is governed by Iraqis without this interference in its internal affairs”.
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