Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Associated Press US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's motorcade after a visit to the World Food Program regional warehouse in Amman, Jordan, January 7, 2024
W.G. Dunlop – Agence France-Presse in Washington
- Middle East
The United States announced Monday “consequential” retaliation after a drone strike in Jordan blamed on pro-Iran groups which cost the lives of three American soldiers, with Tehran denying any involvement in the attack occurred in an already explosive regional context.
President Joe Biden will respond “in a very consistent manner,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said on CNN, while assuring that the United States was not “seeking war with Iran” or “wider conflict in the Middle East.” He did not mention whether the Biden administration intended to strike on Iranian territory. “This attack was an escalation, let me be clear, and it demands a response,” he added.
The US president met with senior officials on Monday to discuss the situation, including Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, Brett McGurk, his Middle East adviser, and his secretary of defense , Lloyd Austin.
“Have no doubt: we will hold all those responsible accountable, when and how we want,” he warned the day before, accusing groups “supported by Iran” to be at the origin of the strike.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a nebula of fighters from pro-Iran armed groups, claimed responsibility for attacks carried out “with drones” on Sunday against three bases in Syrian territory which host American soldiers, notably naming the sectors of Al-Tanf and of Rukban, near the border of Jordan.
It is immediately difficult to determine whether one of these strikes is indeed the one that killed three American soldiers and injured 34 in northeastern Jordan.
“Terrorist” attack, according to Amman
These are the first US military deaths in an attack since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7. They raise fears of escalation in the region while fighting rages in the Gaza Strip, shelled by Israel.
Jordan condemned a “terrorist” attack, and Saudi Arabia on Monday renewed its “unwavering support for intensifying international efforts” against “extremism.”
The strike hit “Tower 22”, a logistics base in Jordanian territory located just opposite the Rukban area, in Syrian territory, according to the US military. This position houses 350 members of the American Army and Air Force, who provide support missions.
Since mid-October, pro-Iran armed groups have fired rockets and used drones against the troops of Washington and the international anti-jihadist coalition, who have suffered more than 165 attacks, a direct repercussion of the war in Gaza between Israel, an ally of Washington, and Palestinian Hamas, supported by Tehran.
Tehran “has no connection and has nothing to do with the attack on the US base,” Iran’s permanent representation to the UN said.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it did not want “the expansion of the conflict in the Middle East”, according to its spokesperson Nasser Kanani, assuring that Iran was not involved in the decisions “resistance groups on how they support the Palestinian nation.”
“Spiral of violence”
Most attacks on American soldiers have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. The group says it acted Sunday to “resist” U.S. forces in Iraq and the region and “in response to massacres” in the Gaza Strip.
For its part, the Iraqi armed group Al-Noujaba, which says it participates in the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, called on Monday the United States “to learn its lesson and leave […]. For every day that passes, they will pay a heavy price.”
According to an American official, the international anti-jihadist coalition, led by the United States, saw one of its bases, located in Shaddadi, in northeastern Syria, targeted by “multiple rockets”, which caused neither casualties nor damage.
In far eastern Syria, “groups of pro-Iran fighters evacuated 12 positions” in the Boukamal and al-Mayadine regions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. the man Monday.
In retaliation for attacks on its personnel, Washington had already carried out several strikes in Iraq against fighters from pro-Iran armed groups.
Just like in Yemen, where bombings targeted positions of the Houthi rebels, who target international maritime traffic off the coast of Yemen.
Baghdad on Monday condemned the deadly attack on US soldiers in Jordan, while calling on parties to “stop the spiral of violence” in the Middle East.
The attack was also condemned by Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, France and the United Kingdom, whose head of diplomacy, David Cameron, called on Iran to “de-escalation in the region”.