President Joe Biden delivered a direct message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against targeting U.S. personnel in the region, the White House said on Thursday after American forces were attacked in Iraq and Syria.
“There was a direct message relayed,” White House spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing, declining to elaborate.
Kirby’s comment comes as U.S. officials remain concerned about a wider conflict in the Middle East following the Oct. 7 attack by the militant Hamas group against Israel, with the Pentagon increasing surveillance and deploying additional military assets and personnel in the region.
U.S. forces have been attacked more than a dozen times in Iraq and Syria in the past week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Biden said he had warned the Ayatollah that the United States would respond if U.S. forces continued to be targeted but did not specify how the message was communicated.
“My warning to the Ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond, and he should be prepared. It has nothing to do with Israel,” the president told a news conference.
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