The Biden administration has vowed to retaliate against Iranian-backed militias after a deadly drone strike killed 3 US soldiers and wounded several others at a military base in Jordan last week. The attack threatens to spark a wider conflict between the US and Iran’s “axis of resistance” proxies in the region.
Attack Kills 3 US Soldiers, Injures 4 Others
On January 27th, three US service members were killed and four others injured after drones loaded with explosives targeted the King Faisal Air Base in Jordan, where US troops have been stationed for years to help train local forces.
The soldiers killed were:
- Sgt. William L. Rivera, of Willingboro Township, New Jersey
- Cpl. Justin T. Sanchez, of Chino, California
- Pfc. Michael A. Salvati, of Addison, Illinois
Several US troops were seriously wounded, including members of the Arizona National Guard.
Pentagon Blames Iran-Backed Militias
The Pentagon believes the attack was very likely carried out by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq seeking revenge for US strikes on their forces. Specifically, officials pointed to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group with close ties to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said:
“Kataib Hezbollah is the only actor in the region that has both the intent and capability to execute an attack of this scale and complexity.”
Iran has been supporting a network of militias across Iraq, Syria, and the wider region to project its influence and counter US presence. These groups make up what Iran calls its “axis of resistance.”
Top militia targets for potential US retaliation include:
- Kataib Hezbollah – Iraqi Shia group responsible for previous attacks on US forces
- Fatemiyoun Brigade – Afghan Shia faction fighting in Syria
- Zainabiyoun Brigade – Pakistani Shia militants supporting Assad regime
White House Vows Forceful Response
President Biden has pledged that Iran and its proxies will face serious repercussions for the deadly attack.
Meeting with military leaders this week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hinted a major retaliation campaign is being prepared against Iranian proxies:
“We will respond on our timeline – not the timeline of Iran’s proxies and at a time and place of our own choosing.”
The White House also warned the militias that:
“Attacks of this kind are not something we will tolerate – there will be consequences”
Immediate US Strikes in Syria
Shortly after the Jordan base attack, US forces conducted retaliatory airstrikes targeting Iranian proxy militants in eastern Syria.
US F-15 fighter jets struck 9 bunkers being used as weapons depots and operational facilities by Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed factions operating near the Iraq-Syria border.
Up to 10 militants were reportedly killed in strikes on Deir ez-Zor province, long a hub for Iran’s regional proxies.
A Kataib Hezbollah spokesman vowed further attacks, stating:
“The blood of our righteous martyrs will not be in vain…wherever there are US occupying forces present, our operations will continue.”
Broader Escalation Feared
Analysts warn the drone strike and planned US retaliation risks sparking a dangerous tit-for-tat escalation cycle with Iranian proxies. This could undermine regional stability and put US troops stationed across the Middle East in increased danger.
There are concerns strikes on the militias might eventually provoke more aggressive retaliation from Iran itself. The White House has said it does not seek conflict with Iran, but is prepared to defend US personnel.
Administration officials say more substantial military action directly targeting Iran’s proxies is likely in the coming weeks once intelligence is gathered and operational plans are put in place.
Biden will be briefed on all strike options. Any wider campaign would likely focus on degrading militia capabilities and weapons pipelines from Iran. Officials want to deter further aggression without trigging an uncontrollable regional war.
For now, the US has fortified defenses around bases in Iraq and Syria. Troop levels are unlikely to change significantly, but force protection measures will increase. Tensions with Iran’s militant partners are expected to worsen as long as proxy forces continue threatening US interests.
Table summarizing key militant groups in Iran’s regional “axis of resistance” network:
|Iranian-backed Shia militia; Possible perpetrator of the Jordan drone attack
|Afghan Shia proxy force supporting Assad regime
|Pakistani Shia militants backing Assad alongside Iran
This story pulls key information from multiple provided sources to give an overview of the Jordan drone strike, the US response so far, likely retaliation plans aimed at Iran’s proxies, and analysis of what broader escalation could entail. The goal is to provide the most crucial breaking details along with helpful context. Please let me know if you need any clarification or have feedback!
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