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March 4, 2024

Biden Weighs Response After Iran-Backed Militias Kill U.S. Troops in Jordan

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Jan 31, 2024

U.S. President Joe Biden is facing mounting pressure to respond after Iran-backed militias killed 3 U.S. troops in a drone strike on a base in Jordan last week. The attack has raised tensions between the U.S. and Iran amid ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

Background on the Jordan Attack

On January 27th, 2024, Iranian-backed militias launched three suicide drones at a U.S. base near the Jordanian town of Jafr, known as Tower 22. The attack killed 3 U.S. service members and wounded 4 others, including 2 members of the Arizona National Guard.

Tower 22 serves as a CIA outpost for gathering intelligence, training Syrian opposition fighters, and directing U.S. air strikes against extremist targets in Syria. About 250 U.S. troops are stationed there to help coordinate with regional allies.

The attack was claimed by a previously unknown Shiite militia group called Alwiya Al-Tha’iroun, or Brigades of Revolutionaries. But U.S. officials believe the group is actually a front for better-known, Iran-backed Iraqi militias like Kataib Hezbollah.

U.S. Service Members Killed in Jordan Attack
Army Staff Sgt. William H. Rivers, 31, from Georgia
Army Sgt. Breanna R. Moffett, 25, from Georgia
Marine Cpl. Kennedy D. Sanders, 28, from Florida

Escalating Tensions with Iran

Relations between the U.S. and Iran have deteriorated sharply since 2018, when President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. The two sides have engaged in brinkmanship in recent years.

In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Iran retaliated by launching ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. No Americans were killed, which prevented further escalation, but tensions remained high.

Throughout 2021-2023, Iran-backed militias targeted U.S. bases and diplomatic facilities across the Middle East with rocket and drone attacks. These mainly harassing attacks rarely caused casualties.

The Jordan strike represents the first time Iran-linked fighters have killed U.S. troops since Soleimani’s death. It comes amid stalled efforts to revive the nuclear deal and could signal a more aggressive stance by Tehran.

Reaction from Biden and Congress

President Biden has come under criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for not responding more forcefully to previous Iran-backed attacks. The deadly strike in Jordan has increased calls for retaliation.

At Dover Air Force Base on January 30th, a somber Biden met with the families of the slain troops. He warned Tehran not to escalate further, saying: “You cannot act with impunity. Be careful.”

Behind closed doors, Biden reportedly told a bipartisan group of Congress members that he would respond at a time and place of his choosing. His options include cyberattacks and additional sanctions.

However, the administration also wants to avoid uncontrolled escalation. Launching air strikes could draw the U.S. into a spiraling conflict with Iran that would undermine Biden’s domestic agenda ahead of the 2024 election.

Militia Group Suspends Attacks

On January 30th, the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, issued a rare statement saying the militia group would temporarily halt attacks targeting U.S. forces in Iraq. This came shortly after a barrage of Iranian artillery struck near the U.S. consulate in Erbil.

Al-Muhandis said the pause decision was made “in light of current political circumstances and developments in the region.” This could indicate Iran wishes to avoid further retaliation from the U.S. in the short term.

The Pentagon expressed skepticism about al-Muhandis’ announcement, noting that Iran has failed to rein in militias in the past despite making similar pledges. Officials said the U.S. would keep up pressure on Tehran.

Israel-Hamas Fighting Recedes

The situation between Israel and Hamas has stabilized after more than a week of fighting triggered by an Israeli raid in the West Bank. At least 50 Palestinians, mostly militants, and 5 Israeli civilians have died.

On January 31st, Qatar announced that Israel and Hamas agreed to implement a ceasefire brokered by Egyptian mediators. Both sides have motives to end this round of violence.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the army achieved its aims in Gaza, degrading Hamas’ capabilities. With elections coming up, Israeli leaders want to pivot back to their domestic agenda.

Hamas also expressed satisfaction with Egypt’s role in mediating a truce. Ending the violence bolsters its credentials among Palestinians ahead of rare parliamentary elections expected this spring.

Outlook for U.S-Iran Relations

Biden has reportedly decided how to respond to the attack in Jordan but is waiting for the right time to act. He continues to walk a delicate line between deterring Iran, protecting U.S. forces, and preventing uncontrolled escalation.

Unless Tehran pulls back support for regional militias, sporadic attacks on U.S. targets are likely to persist in unpredictable waves. This could inhibit efforts to restore the nuclear deal as Iran’s allies try to strengthen their hand.

However, neither the U.S. or Iran likely want an open conflict, especially with Russia continuing to batter Ukraine. Instead, the long-running shadow war between Washington and Tehran seems poised to grind on absent a diplomatic breakthrough.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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