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Mike Pompeo warns Iran against anti-US action in Iraq

CIA Director Mike Pompeo in letter to Iran's army chief says US will hold Tehran responsible if its troops are targeted.

Mike Pompeo

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has warned Iran against attacking US "interests" in Iraq, saying the Iranian government will be held responsible for any targeting of US troops.

Pompeo, speaking at the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum in California on Saturday, said he had sent a cautionary letter to the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Qassem Soleimani.

"I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests in Iraq," Pompeo said. "What we were communicating to him was that we will hold him and Iran accountable."

The letter was not opened by Soleimani, according to the chief of staff for Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Recently, when ... the CIA chief through one of his contacts in the region sent a letter to General Soleimani, he responded by saying, 'I did not either receive or read the letter. I have nothing to tell these people'," Mohammad Mohammadi Golpaygani said.

Since the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government in 2003 during the US-led invasion, Iran has extended its influence throughout the country.

The Iranian government in Tehran is consolidating its control over political affairs in Iraq, while fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

A US-led coalition is also combating ISIL in Iraq and Syria, frequently in close proximity to Iranian forces operating in those countries.

Pompeo, an outspoken critic of the nuclear agreement with Iran, said Tehran's actions in Iraq showed that "Iranian efforts to be the hegemonic power throughout the Middle East continue to increase".

Recent speculation has suggested that Pompeo is being lined up by US President Donald Trump to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Pompeo did not answer questions regarding these reports.

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