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Saturday, March 2, 2024

U.S. troops killed, wounded in Jordan assault blamed on Iranian proxies

A militant drone assault killed three U.S. service members and injured at the very least 34 in Jordan on Sunday, officers stated, marking the primary lethal navy motion in opposition to American troops since the conflict in Gaza triggered a steep rise in violence throughout the Center East.

President Biden blamed the assault on teams supported by Iran, producing speedy questions on when, the place and the way forcefully the USA may reply.

Talking throughout a go to to South Carolina, Biden referenced the lack of “three courageous souls.”

“We had a tricky day final night time within the Center East,” he stated, earlier than main a second of silence. “And we will reply.”

Because the tally of assaults on U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria has surged to greater than 160 since October, the Pentagon has carried out retaliatory strikes in opposition to Iranian proxies there. However to the frustration of many in Washington, these actions, together with a parallel marketing campaign of strikes on Iranian-linked rebels in Yemen, have failed to finish the violence, and the president’s critics used the incident Sunday to ramp up their calls for for extra aggressive countermeasures.

The lethal assault focused a facility often known as Tower 22 in northeast Jordan, near the place the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan converge.

A U.S. protection official stated the one-way drone struck the bottom’s residing quarters, inflicting accidents that ranged from cuts and bruises to mind trauma. About 350 troops are stationed on the base.

Jordan’s authorities condemned the assault and stated Jordanian troops had suffered no casualties. Authorities spokesperson Muhannad Mubaideen stated Jordan would “proceed to counter terrorism and the smuggling of medication and weapons throughout the Syrian border into Jordan, and can confront with firmness and dedication anybody who makes an attempt to assault the safety of the Kingdom.”

It was not instantly clear the place the assault was launched from, stated the official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to explain the incident. Army commanders are working to find out that info and, crucially, why U.S. air defenses didn’t intercept the drone.

Eight personnel required evacuation out of Jordan for “increased stage care, however they’re in steady situation,” U.S. Central Command stated in a press release Sunday night time. The identities of these slain weren’t disclosed, pending household notifications. Biden, in his assertion, referred to as them “patriots within the highest sense.”

Charles Lister, a senior fellow on the Center East Institute, described the incident as a “recreation changer” within the intensifying standoff between Tehran and Washington.

The assault’s deadly consequence “signifies that Biden’s response goes to must be extra important than the whole lot he’s achieved till now,” he stated. “It forces Biden’s hand.”

President Biden on Jan. 28 requested occasion attendees in South Carolina for a second of silence after three U.S. troops had been killed in a drone assault in Jordan. (Video: The Washington Submit)

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group for Iranian-linked militias together with Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, claimed duty for the assault, in keeping with a senior official with the group, who spoke on the situation of anonymity in step with guidelines set by the group.

“If the U.S. retains supporting Israel, there will likely be escalations,” the Islamic Resistance in Iraq official stated. “All U.S. pursuits within the area are legit targets and we don’t care about U.S. threats to reply. … Martyrdom is our prize.”

Friction between the 2 nations has worsened in latest weeks, as U.S. forces have fought again in opposition to the rise in Iranian proxy assaults. On Jan. 4, the Biden administration launched a uncommon retaliatory strike on a base belonging to a militia in central Baghdad, killing the group’s commander. U.S. officers stated on the time that it was hoped the strike would function a deterrent in opposition to additional hostility towards U.S. troops. As an alternative, the assaults have grown extra formidable.

Retired Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, who commanded U.S. forces within the Center East from 2019 to 2022, stated the latest U.S. counterstrikes, which he described as “pretty circumscribed,” had not had the impact of deterring Iranian-backed teams.

“If the opponent is allowed to proceed these assaults on such a scope and scale, ultimately they’re going get fortunate with one thing,” he stated. “It’s simply the calculus of the battlefield.”

Tower 22 is a part of a constellation of bases that home some 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and one other 900 in Syria. These forces have been centered mainly on stopping a resurgence of the Islamic State, the terrorist community that took over giant swaths of each nations till a U.S.-led navy marketing campaign left the group decimated.

Tower 22 capabilities as a help website for an additional U.S. outpost throughout Jordan’s border in Syria that has taken on a unique form of mission. The remoted al-Tanf base, positioned alongside a key freeway that connects Tehran to its ally, Damascus, has served as a platform for U.S. forces pushing again in opposition to Iran’s efforts to provide companions and proxies in Syria and past.

Sunday’s bloodshed additionally spotlights Jordan’s try to stroll a tenuous line as many within the Arab world, outraged by Israel’s punishing assault on Gaza, have faulted the USA for its unconditional backing of the Jewish state regardless of the conflict’s huge civilian toll. The dominion views the USA as a precious accomplice in counterterrorism but in addition is in search of to keep away from the wrath of Iran and different regional neighbors.

McKenzie famous that the U.S. navy had made important enhancements in its capacity to disable or shoot down drones in search of to assault U.S. bases.

“However it’s nonetheless not good, and also you’re not going to have the ability to attain perfection in these defensive efforts, which is why the tragedy in the present day occurred,” he stated.

Iran hawks in Congress amplified their criticism of Biden and his administration of the Gaza-related violence within the wake of the brand new bloodshed. Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) implored the administration to impose “critical crippling prices” on Iran and its proxies.

“The time to start out taking this aggression severely,” McConnell stated, “was lengthy earlier than extra courageous People misplaced their lives.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated the president’s technique for deterring escalation had “failed miserably.” He referred to as for hanging “targets of significance inside Iran” — a prospect that many nationwide safety consultants worry would draw the USA right into a cataclysmic conflict.

“The one factor the Iranian regime understands is pressure,” Graham stated. “Till they pay a worth with their infrastructure and their personnel, the assaults on U.S. troops will proceed.”

A consultant for Iran’s everlasting mission to the United Nations informed the nation’s official Islamic Republic Information Company early Monday that Tehran “had no connection and had nothing to do with the assault on the US base.”

5 U.S. troops have died since violence within the Center East widened with Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Two Navy SEALs had been misplaced in an accident earlier this month whereas on a mission to interdict Iranian weapons elements sure for Yemen, the place militants proceed to focus on industrial and navy vessels off the Arabian Peninsula.

Because the SEALs tried to board a ship suspected of carrying illicit arms, considered one of them slipped and fell from a ladder and the opposite jumped into the robust waves to assist, officers have stated. They had been declared lifeless days later following an expansive search mission.

Even because the Biden administration confronts spiraling violence in opposition to U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, it faces mounting questions on its plan for containing assaults by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, whose marketing campaign concentrating on ships off the Arabian Peninsula poses a significant menace to worldwide commerce.

Sarah Dadouch in Beirut, Mustafa Salim in Baghdad and Louisa Loveluck in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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