President Joe Biden said Tuesday he has decided how to respond to an attack in Jordan last week that killed 3 US soldiers and wounded several more. The attack was carried out by drones allegedly linked to an Iran-backed militia group known as Kataib Hezbollah. As tensions rise, Iran has urged diplomacy while US lawmakers push for retaliation.
Attack on Jordan Base Kills 3 US Soldiers
Last Friday, drones attacked the Tower 22 base located in a remote stretch of desert in eastern Jordan near the borders of Syria and Iraq. Tower 22 has served as a CIA outpost for rebel training and a launching point for US special forces operations against Islamic State militants in Syria.
The attack killed 3 American soldiers and wounded at least 7 other US troops along with several Jordanian forces. The soldiers killed were Army Sergeant William L. Rivers, of Georgia, Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan K. Sanderson, of Georgia, and Army Sergeant Breonna R. Moffett, of Arizona. Several Arizona National Guard members were among the wounded.
US Central Command believes the attack was carried out by drones operated by militia groups with links to Iran’s Quds Force. Pentagon officials said the complex and precise nature of the attack showed a level of sophistication previously not seen from militia groups in the region.
Iran-Backed Militia Group Suspends Attacks
On Monday, an Iran-backed militia group known as Kataib Hezbollah (KH) announced it would temporarily suspend attacks on US forces in Iraq. The statement from KH did not specify the reason for suspending operations, nor did it make any mention of the Jordan attack.
Pentagon officials remained skeptical, saying they do not view KH’s declaration as credible or binding. Other Iran-backed militias are still seen as posing an active threat to US forces in the region.
Iran has denied any role in the attack, while stressing it does not seek further escalation with the US.
“We did not have any affiliation with this attack… we clearly announce that we did not mean to kill and did not know about the presence of Americans in this place,” said an unnamed senior IRGC official.
Biden Weighs Response
In remarks Tuesday, President Biden confirmed he has decided how the US will respond to the attack but did not disclose specifics.
“We know the focus of the attack and we know who conducted it,” Biden said. “And all the options are on the table.”
Potential US responses could include airstrikes against KH positions in Iraq or Syria, cyberattacks, or additional economic sanctions. There is concern that overly aggressive retaliation could draw the US into a wider conflict with Iran.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have slammed the Biden administration’s response so far as weak and inadequate. Former President Trump said the attack “would never have happened if I were President,” accusing Biden of “groveling and appeasement.”
Tensions with Iran Under Biden
While the Biden administration has sought to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, tensions have remained high. There have been sporadic attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria over the past two years, typically carried out by Iranian proxies.
In January 2023, the US conducted airstrikes in eastern Syria that targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The strikes were in response to an attack in northern Syria that wounded several US troops.
The Jordan strike comes as talks have stalled on reviving the Iran nuclear deal. Israel remains strongly opposed to the US rejoining the agreement.
What Comes Next
The coming days will be critical in seeing how the situation unfolds. If the US opts for a forceful response, it risks retaliation from Iranian proxies that could quickly escalate. However, a more restrained approach may embolden militants to conduct further attacks.
For now, US troops across the Middle East are on high alert amid threats of additional strikes. Much will hinge on Iran’s reaction to any US retaliation. Despite KH’s announced suspension of attacks, most experts believe the militias will remain a serious danger for US forces in the region.
Table 1: Timeline of key events
|January 27, 2023
|US conducts airstrikes in eastern Syria targeting Iran-backed militia groups
|January 29, 2023
|Drone attack on Tower 22 base in Jordan kills 3 US soldiers
|January 30, 2023
|Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah announces suspension of attacks on US forces
|January 31, 2023
|President Biden says he has decided on response to Jordan attack
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