U.S. Intel Head Warns of Iranian Retaliation in Syria

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill, January 29, 2019. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

The head of the U.S. intelligence community warned on Tuesday of the mounting risks of a military confrontation with Iran if Israeli air strikes in Syria continue to cause casualties to Iranian personnel.

“We assess that Iran seeks to avoid a major armed conflict with Israel. However, Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to The Times of Israel.

Coats spoke in behalf of 16 American intelligence services to the congressional committee as part of the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment.

The assessment does not come as a surprise in Israel. President Reuven Rivlin said the same thing at a conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, that Iran was likely to “intensify its responses” to Israeli strikes.

However, in what did appear to be at odds with recent Israeli claims that the IDF has stopped Iranian entrenchment in Syria, Coats said:

“Iran continues to pursue permanent military bases and economic deals in Syria and probably wants to maintain a network of Shia& foreign fighters there despite Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria.”

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