The Biden administration has conducted a series of retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria and Iraq in the wake of a deadly drone attack on a military base in Jordan last week that killed 3 American soldiers and wounded several others.
Overview of the Jordan Base Attack
On January 31st, 3 American soldiers were killed and 4 others injured in a drone attack targeting the King Faisal Air Base in Jordan which houses American troops. The drone is believed to have been launched from 50 miles away in southern Syria by militia groups backed by Iran.
The soldiers killed were Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Farmer, 37 years old from Florida who was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group; Navy Corpsman 1st Class Chad Fish, a member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 8 operating out of Virginia; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dustin Nelsen, 30 years old from Colorado who was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, North Carolina.
|Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Farmer
|5th Special Forces Group
|Navy Corpsman 1st Class Chad Fish
|Navy SEAL Team 8
|Air Force Staff Sgt. Dustin Nelsen
|21st Special Tactics Squadron
This marked the first time American troops had been killed by enemy drone strikes. The base had previously come under rocket attacks over the last 2 years but no one was killed in those assaults.
US Retaliatory Strikes
In response to the drone attack, the US military carried out retaliatory strikes targeting facilities used by the militia groups behind the Jordan base assault.
On February 2nd, the US conducted a series of airstrikes hitting 7 locations in eastern Syria targeting infrastructure facilities used by the Iranian-backed militias operating in the region. The strikes were carried out by both fighter jets and long-range bombers.
On February 3rd, the US struck 9 more targets related to the Iran-backed militia groups in the Deir-ez-Zor region of Syria. US Central Command said these strikes targeted ammunition depots, logistics hubs, and other sites used by the militias.
Also on February 3rd, the US hit 3 targets linked to Iran’s proxy forces in Baghdad and Karbala in Iraq. These strikes were aimed at weapons storage and logistics sites used to enable militant attacks.
US officials said the strikes were intended to degrade militants’ ability to conduct attacks and demonstrate resolve without triggering a broader conflict. But they warned that the US is prepared to take further action if necessary to protect American personnel in the region.
The US strikes have stoked tensions with Iran’s allies in Iraq’s government who have condemned the attacks on Iraqi soil. But the Biden administration says Iran needs to stop enabling attacks by proxy militias against US troops in the Middle East. The White House called on Iraq to help combat the threat from these armed groups attacking coalition forces stationed in the country.
The US airstrikes have prompted objections from some world powers:
Russia and China – Condemned the US attacks at a UN Security Council meeting, accusing America of violating international law. They introduced a draft resolution criticizing the military action but it failed to pass.
United Nations – Issued a statement voicing concern over the “profound ramifications” of the strikes which could lead to an uncontrollable escalation. The UN urged all sides to exercise maximum restraint.
European Allies – While not overtly criticizing the strikes, key European partners like France and Germany urged de-escalation and diplomacy to ease regional tensions. They offered to facilitate dialogue if requested by the parties involved.
What Comes Next
While the US attacks were intended as a direct response to the Jordan base drone attack, officials have warned that additional strikes could come at a time and place of America’s choosing if the threats persist.
More US airstrikes are possible targeting Iranian proxies in Syria or Iraq if they keep up assaults against American troops and facilities, according to Biden administration officials.
The US may also look at additional ways to tighten economic sanctions or other non-military pressure on Tehran for enabling the militia attacks.
However, the White House also stressed that the US does not seek further conflict and aims to restrain Iranian aggression while avoiding another entangling war in the Middle East.
The coming days and weeks will indicate whether the retaliatory strikes result in any de-escalation of regional tensions. But US commanders have already moved to heighten the alert level and bolster defenses for American forces in the Middle East to prepare for potential retaliation. The situation remains precarious, and while restraint may prevail for now, the risk of miscalculation leading to a wider armed clash cannot be ruled out.
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