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US: 'Multiple actions' likely in response to Jordan strike

January 30, 2024

The White House has said it is considering a "tiered approach" in response to a drone attack that killed three US servicemembers. US President Biden has emphasized he does not seek a "wider war" in the Middle East.

An aerial shot of a US base in the Jordan desert from October 2023
The US base 'Tower 22' was hit by a drone strike that killed three servicemembers Image: Planet Labs PBC/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said a decision had been made on the response to a drone attack that killed three US servicemembers in Jordan on Sunday.

The president said the decision had been made after consulting with his top advisors but he did not elaborate on what the response would entail.

The US has said "radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq" were behind the attack. 

Asked if he held Iran responsible for Sunday's deadly drone strike, Biden said, "I do hold them responsible in the sense that they are supplying the weapons to the people who did it."

Speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving on a campaign trip to Florida, Biden said the US is "not looking for a wider war" in the Middle East nor confrontation with Iran.

Later Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden was considering several options in response. 

On Friday, Biden will travel to a military airbase near Washington to attend the "dignified transfer" of the bodies of the three servicemembers killed in Sunday’s attack.

US response could come incrementally

"It's very possible that what you'll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions," Kirby said.

Biden is facing pressure at home over a response to Iran's backing of radical Islamist militias in the Middle East.

Republican hardliners are urging Biden to launch direct attacks on Iran, although the Democrat has so far given no indication that he would consider such a move. 

US vows response to deadly drone attack

It is more likely that US forces will target Iran-backed militants as well Revolutionary Guards targets outside Iran.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday suggested the possibility that the US response, "could be multi-leveled, come in stages and be sustained over time."

Iran denies role in attack

The incident, which took place at the "Tower 22" base in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border, injured at least 34 further servicemembers.

It was the first direct killing by hostile fire of US soldiers in the Middle East since the war in Gaza began on October following the Hams terror attacks on Israel.

Since then, Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have attacked Israeli and US targets in support of the Palestinians,

Iran denies having any involvement in the drone strike. 

On Tuesday, an Iran-aligned militant group operating in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah, announced the "suspension of military and security operations" against US troops in the region.

Yesterday, the Pentagon said the drone attack had the "footprints" of Kataeb Hezbollah, although a final assessment of responsibility has not been completed.

The Shiite paramilitary group said the stand-down was to "avoid any embarrassment for the Iraqi government."

Jordan: Fatal drone attack increases pressure on USA

js/wmr (AFP, Reuters, AP)