The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) says he has sent a letter to a top Iranian general warning him that Washington will hold Tehran responsible for any attacks on U.S. interests by Iran-backed forces in Iraq.
Director Mike Pompeo on December 2 told a defense forum in Simi Valley, California, that the letter to Major General Qassem Soleimani was never opened but that he wanted to send it because Soleimani had indicated his forces might threaten U.S. interests in Iraq.
"I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten U.S. interests in Iraq," Pompeo said. "He refused to open the letter — didn't break my heart to be honest with you."
Soleimani is commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operations for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Iranian state-run news agency Fars quoted an Iranian military official as saying that “our commander refused to receive the letter, saying we don’t have anything in common to talk about.”
The official did not say when the letter was received, only that it was “recently.”
Pompeo, an opponent of the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, told the defense forum that Tehran remains in technical compliance with the agreement, which provided Iran with relief from sanctions in exchange for reining in its nuclear program.
U.S. forces are supporting the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups.
Iran-backed militias and IRGC forces are also supporting the Iraqi government, although the United States, France, and other allies have called for Baghdad to dismantle the militais.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on October 22 said it was time for Iranian military advisers and fighters “to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control.”
"Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against [Islamic State] is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said.
A senior U.S. official said Tillerson’s remarks referred to militia fighters known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Quds Force.
U.S. media have reported that Tillerson will soon be forced out by President Donald Trump and that Pompeo will be his replacement. The White House and Tillerson have denied the reports.
With reporting by AP, Rudaw, and IFP News