Iran is persisting in its goal of “regional hegemony” despite the killing of its military mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, in January, the head of the US Central Command said on Tuesday.

Kenneth McKenzie told reporters that Iran is continuing to “contest” US presence in the Arabian Gulf, but also is aware of the cost of military confrontation.

“Since the exchange in January we are in a period of contested deterrence,” Mr McKenzie said, referring to Iran’s retaliatory missile attacks on US forces in Iraq after a US drone strike killed Suleimani in Baghdad on January 3.

“Iran still holds its goals for regional hegemony and as part of that they are intent of ejecting the United States from the region,” Mr McKenzie said.

“That is very much still alive and well. But I think there is a period of rough deterrence that remains in place,” he said by phone.

Mr McKenzie was speaking from an undisclosed location during a Middle East tour, where he has already visited Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait.

He said Iran was “calculating” how to undermine the US presence “without crossing a red line”.

“I don’t think Iran ever doubted our capabilities, but sometimes doubted our will,” he said.

“I would argue that after the events in January, Iran is newly sensitive to our will and our willingness to use [our] forces.”

Source » thenational