In the letter, released Monday, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III said that U.S. forces “respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” A U.S. military official confirmed the letter’s authenticity.
But on a day of confusion, Esper said he could not confirm the authenticity of the letter because he had seen it only after it was leaked, adding that it is “inconsistent with where we are right now.”
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter incorrectly implies withdrawal and “was a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released.”
Asked whether the U.S. military was prepared to strike Iranian cultural sites, as President Trump has suggested, Esper said the military would “follow the laws of armed conflict.”
Esper said that the United States remains prepared for any contingency with regard to Iran and that the message to Tehran is that the “ball remains in their court.”
Here are key points of what we know:
●The U.S. military said in a letter to Iraqi officials that it will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal, but Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said shortly after that the United States has not made any decision to leave Iraq.
●Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was “a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released.”
●Lawmakers are expected to be briefed by top U.S. officials on the strike that killed Soleimani, according to three people familiar with the plans.
●The Pentagon has told the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group to be ready to support Middle East operations, a defense official said.
●The funeral in Tehran for Soleimani was a stark display of his importance to the regime.
●In the aftermath of the strike that killed Soleimani, Iran has discarded more internationally mandated curbs on its nuclear program.