There remains a "heightened risk" of an Iranian threat to American interests in the Middle East, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie told ABC News.
McKenzie, the top U.S. general in the Middle East as head of U.S. Central Command, made the remarks a day after the U.S. Navy took the unusual step of admitting that an American submarine had entered the Persian Gulf, which is seen as sending a clear message to Iran.
The remarks also come among concerns that Tehran might retaliate for the American drone attack that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad as the January 3 first anniversary of that strike fast approaches.
Amid the worries, however, McKenzie downplayed that a conflict with Iran is more likely.
"I do believe we remain in a period of heightened risk," McKenzie told ABC News. "I would just emphasize this key point: We're not looking to escalate ourselves. We're not looking for war with Iran."
He added that although Iran and its proxies are the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the region, "It is my belief that Iran doesn't want a war with the United States right now."
Beyond acknowledging the presence of the U.S. submarine in the Persian Gulf, McKenzie refused to expand on his comments other than to say that "there are a lot of reasons for bringing a submarine into the Arabian Gulf. "
McKenzie's remarks also came a few days after attackers fired 20 rockets at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, killing an Iraqi civilian. and damaging some structures.
The general called the attack "certainly an escalation” and said it was "very concerning," since it was the largest such strike since 2010.
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