The Biden administration has reportedly approved plans for strikes against Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria in response to a drone attack that killed 3 US troops at a base in Jordan last week. The planned strikes signal a shift to a more forceful US stance against Iran and its proxy groups amid rising tensions.
US Troops Killed in “Deliberate and Coordinated” Drone Strike
On January 30th, three US service members were killed in an attack on the King Faisal Air Base in Jordan, where US troops have been stationed to help Jordan’s military fight extremist groups. The attack was carried out by three “one-way attack” drones that evaded defenses and struck the base’s dining facility.
In addition to the 3 deaths, four other US troops were injured. Most of the casualties were National Guard members from a Georgia-based unit who were in Jordan on a training mission. The Pentagon identified those killed as Army Sgt. Breonna R. Moffett, 25, Army Sgt. Kennedy J. Sanders, 23, and Air Force SSgt Antonio D. Moore, 36.
|Breonna R. Moffett
|Kennedy J. Sanders
|Antonio D. Moore
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, stated that the attack bore the “hallmarks” of previous attacks by Iran-backed groups and was “deliberate and coordinated.” The drones appear to have been provided by Iran and launched from Iraq by Iranian-supported Shia militias.
Iran Denies Involvement as US Vows Response
Iran has denied carrying out the attack. However, US officials have stated they have evidence linking the strike to a militia known as Kataib Hezbollah, one of several Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups supported by Iran.
Kataib Hezbollah previously carried out rocket attacks that killed US contractors in Iraq in late 2019, prompting retaliatory US airstrikes that brought the US and Iran to the brink of war. The group is part of the Islamic Resistance Axis – a loose network of militias aligned with Iran and opposed to US and Israeli interests in the region. The Axis carries out attacks via proxies to avoid direct confrontation with superior US military forces.
The White House stated that Kataib Hezbollah should take warnings from the US “seriously” and that groups linked to the Jordan attack would “face consequences.” President Biden has stated that the US “will respond” at a time and place of its choosing.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US knows who conducted the Jordan strike and has “options ready.” Gen. McKenzie hinted a major US retaliation was imminent, stating: “I have a lot more capability than they do.” Congressional Republicans have criticized what they view as Biden’s weak response and are urging swift, decisive action against the perpetrators.
Escalating Proxy War Raises Risk of Wider Conflict
The Jordan base attack is the latest violent incident in the ongoing shadow war between the US and Iranian proxy forces playing out across the region. It comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Iranian-backed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. There are concerns these simmering conflicts could spiral out of control and ignite a wider conflagration.
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute think tank, argues a tit-for-tat cycle of retaliation is extremely dangerous, stating: “One retaliation will lead to another retaliation that will lead to another, and before you know it, the U.S. and Iran enter into a direct war.”
However, there are also arguments that failing to respond firmly could project weakness and invite further aggression. Former NATO commander James Stavridis states: “The Israeli-Palestinian situation, rising tension in the Arabian Gulf and negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program provide ample dry kindling awaiting a spark to set it alight.”
US Strikes Approved Against Iran-Linked Targets
As the US weighs its response, reports emerged Wednesday night that the White House has approved plans for airstrikes against weapons depots and other facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.
The planned targets reportedly include Iranian-supplied missile sites and drone facilities. Strikes could begin within days, though the timing may shift. Carrying out strikes deep inside Syria would mark a significant escalation from previous retaliation efforts focused mainly on Iraq.
Up to now, the US has sought to avoid direct clashes with Iranian forces and has focused on economic sanctions as its primary means of pressure. Military action targeting Iran’s regional proxies has been relatively limited.
However, some analysts argue Biden’s indirect approach has failed to deter Iranian aggression and that stronger military action is warranted before things spiral out of control. Republicans are also attacking Biden as weak on Iran and demanding a muscular response. This domestic and geopolitical pressure for action now appears to have pushed Biden towards approving more forceful military steps as Tehran keeps testing American resolve through dangerous provocations.
The situation remains highly volatile with much uncertainty over how events will unfold. Iran seems intent on pressing its regional agenda and testing US limits, believing Washington has little appetite for another Mideast war. Yet the growing violence also risks the unstable dynamics getting out of control despite neither side wanting an outright conflict. For now, tensions seem set to heighten further amid a precarious game of chicken with incredibly high stakes. The coming days could prove decisive in determining whether the shadow war remains in the shadows, or steps into the light.
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.