Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Thursday that continued attacks by Iran and its proxy militias against U.S. forces and personnel in Iraq would be met with responses.
Attacks have escalated over the last couple months, Esper said in the statement, with initial attacks injuring partners in the Iraqi Security Forces.
The attacks are clearly being directed by the Iranian regime, specifically Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps leadership, Esper added.
"To Iran and its proxy militias: We will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region," Esper said in the statement. "Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities."
Esper's statement follows protesters angered by deadly U.S. airstrikes Sunday against an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group storming a U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Tuesday.
The U.S. defensive airstrikes came after a rocket attack on a military base Friday in northern Iraq killed a U.S. Defense Department contractor. The attack also injured four U.S. service members and two members of Iraqi Security Forces, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.