US military's Iran policy 'not going to change overnight,' Gen. Robert Scales says

Retired U.S. Army Major General Robert Scales reacted Sunday to the protests that had erupted in Iran after the rogue nation admitted it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane killing all 176 people on board, saying America’s military policy in the country “is not going to change overnight.”

“Now that the nuclear deal is off the table, the Trump administration can talk directly to the Iranian people and say that we’re with the people, not with the ayatollah,” Scales said on “America’s News HQ.”

“The other thing I think that’s important here is that Trump’s strategy is principally economic rather than military.”

“By squeezing them economically with the sanctions, they also add that additional pressure that stresses the day-to-day lives of the Iranian people,” he continued. “This is a long game focused on fomenting revolution.”

President Trump tweeted a message of support to the protesters on Saturday, in both Farsi and English, promising his administration would continue to stand with them in solidarity.

Scales said Trump had two choices.

“First is a covert information war used principally through social media,” the retired general explained, described as Washington making contact “periodically with protesters to try to encourage them and give them advice on what to do.”

TRUMP TWEETS SUPPORT OF IRANIAN ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTERS AFTER UKRAINIAN PASSENGER PLANE SHOT DOWN

“Secondly is the covert military operations that haven’t let up at all in the past year and will likely continue,” he added. “And, of course, those are highly classified, but they tend to be very, very effective over the long term. This is not going to change overnight.”

Scales also weighed in shortly after new reports surfaced that four members of Iraq’s military were wounded Sunday in an attack by at least six rockets targeting an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers have been present. Sunday’s attack came just days after Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces, in response to the U.S.-ordered killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“We reassured our partners and allies in the region that we will stand up and defend our interests,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We do not expect any further attacks.”

When asked if there was a little hubris in saying more attacks from the Iranians or their proxies weren’t expected, Scales responded by saying, “Yeah, but this is small beer.”

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The retired general said a local militia likely conducted Sunday’s attack. “This is a long way from resumption of the surrogate strategic campaign by the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.] They’re back on their heels. With Soleimani dead, they’re going to have to find another moral leader of this movement and restart it. We’re going to have a period of pause while the Iranians try to get their act together.”

Fox News' Leland Vittert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.