Russia Accuses US of Stoking “Escalation” by Mideast Force Build-up as Pentagon Blames Iran

Russia has weighed in strongly against the additional US warships recently sent by the Pentagon to the Middle East region, saying this heightened US presence only serves as a risk of “escalation” of the conflict in Gaza.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday during a meeting Tehran that “the more a state takes this kind of proactive measures, the greater the risk and the danger of an escalation of the conflict”. He called out Washington as “already among the countries intervening the most” since the October 7 Hamas terror attack. 

The same day, the Pentagon said it believes Iran-backed groups in the region are planning to ramp up attacks on US forces in the region. This came amid continuing sporadic drone and missile strikes against US bases in Syria and Iraq.

There are “red lights flashing everywhere,” a US official in the region.

Officials said that at this point, Iran appears to be encouraging the groups rather than explicitly directing them. One official said Iran is providing guidance to the militia groups that they will not be punished – by not getting resupplied with weaponry, for example – if they continue to attack US or Israeli targets.

On Monday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said there is “a very direct connection between these groups” and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and he said the US is “deeply concerned about the potential of any significant escalation of these attacks in the days ahead.”

Kirby added in his comments, “Iran’s goal is to maintain some plausible deniability here, but we are not going to allow them to do that.”

Meanwhile, yet more confusing statement and mixed signals from the US Commander-in-Chief at these crucial and dangerous moments…

And there was this strange moment during a press briefing Monday: 

China also weighed in Monday, offering that it is willing to “do anything” to restore peace, but emphasized that “prospects are worrying” – according to China’s Middle East special envoy Zhai Jun. 

Below: Hamas released video of the two elderly women released from captivity today. The Israeli government has confirmed the handover, and they are now undergoing evaluation in a Tel Aviv hospital:

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