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CENTCOM Confirms Deploying New Anti-Air Systems In Iraq

Iran-aligned militias protesting outside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Three days later, a U.S. drone fired missiles that killed Qassem Soleimani. December 31, 2019

A day after President Donald Trump's warning to the Islamic Republic, CENTCOM confirmed the deployment of new Patriot air-defense systems in Iraq.

However, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said on Thursday that "For operational security reasons, we are not providing status updates as those systems come online."

On Wednesday, President Trump had warned in a tweet that Tehran should expect a bold U.S. response if Iran or Iranian proxies attack U.S. forces or assets in Iraq.

"Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!", President Trump tweeted.

In the meantime, at an evening White House briefing, President Trump reiterated that his administration had received intelligence that the Islamic Republic was planning a strike.

Nevertheless, he stopped short of referring to the source or nature of the "information" mentioned in his tweet and comments.

A day later, on Thursday, Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson, Bill Urban, confirmed in a statement that the U.S. military would not provide further status updates on its ongoing movement of Patriot air defense systems into Iraq for security reasons.

The U.S. military continues to coordinate the effort with its Iraqi partners, he insisted, adding, "The Iraqi Government is well aware of our collective need for air defense protection of service members within Iraq".

Iran has no proxies but it has friends, Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday in response to Trump, adding, "Don't be misled by usual warmongers, AGAIN, @realDonaldTrump: Iran has FRIENDS: No one can have MILLIONS of proxies. Unlike the US — which surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates — Iran only acts in self-defense.".

Furthermore, Zarif maintained in his tweet, "Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do."

The Chief of Staff of the Islamic Republic Armed Forces, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, also said on Thursday the country’s military forces were closely monitoring all movements by the US military in the region.

"What took place against the U.S. bases in Iraq in the past weeks was a 'natural reaction' by Iraqi people to (Washington’s) 'evil act' to kill Major General Qassem Soleimani and commander of Iraq’s resistance forces Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis,” Baqeri said.

Soleimani, the Chief Commander of its Qods Force, a division primarily responsible for the IRGC extraterritorial military and clandestine operations, was killed by an American drone on January 3, minutes after his plane landed in Baghdad international airport.

The Islamic Republic and some of its proxies in Iraq have claimed in recent days that the U.S. has increased its military movements and reconnaissance flights in the region and the Persian Gulf.