US Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo has said he sent a letter to Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iranian leaders expressing concern over Tehran's increasingly threatening behaviour in Iraq.
Speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Southern California, Pompeo said he sent the letter after the senior Iranian military commander had indicated that forces under his control might attack US forces in Iraq. He did not specify the date.
"What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control," Pompeo said. "We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear."
Soleimani, who is the commander of foreign operations for Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, refused to open the letter, according to Pompeo, who took over the CIA in January.
Iranian media earlier quoted Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying an unnamed CIA contact had tried to give a letter to Soleimani when he was in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal in November during the fighting against the Islamic State.
"I will not take your letter nor read it and I have nothing to say to these people," Golpayegani quoted Soleimani as saying, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.
Reuters reported in October that Soleimani had repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, and had travelled to Iraq's Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders.