There is already a decision. President Joe Biden assures that he already knows how the United States will respond in the Middle East to the drone attack, allegedly launched by pro-Iranian militias, which resulted in the death of three soldiers and the wounding of 40 others in an outpost in Jordan. Washington must carefully calibrate its response at a time when the spotlight is growing on its 30,000 troops in the region, in a conflict that already extends beyond the war between Israel and Hamas and threatens to drag other powers into the area. conflict.
In his decision, Biden faces a problem that has been repeated in other US administrations that have experienced conflicts in the area: how to respond forcefully to avoid new attacks, but not to the point of triggering an escalation of unpredictable consequences that could transform the landscape . current. The objective is to avoid moving from the hotbeds of clashes between pro-Iranian militias and American forces in Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea to an apocalyptic scenario: a direct clash between the United States and Iran, which neither of the two old enemies wants. .
In brief statements released as he left the White House to begin a trip to Florida, Biden declined to specify what his government’s response will be after devoting Monday to meetings with his national security advisers on the topic. He warned that he would hold Iran – which denies direct involvement in the incident – responsible “in the sense that it provided the weapons to the people who did this.” But, admitting his dilemma, he said: “It doesn’t seem to me that we need a big war in the Middle East.”
Some brush strokes are already starting to be drawn. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed from the Air Force One plane carrying Biden that there will not be “a single action, but potentially multiple actions… over a period of time.” This response indicates a retaliation similar to that undertaken against Houthi militias in Yemen, also supported by Iran, who attack shipping in the Red Sea. There, British and American forces bombed the rebel groups’ radar systems and missile arsenals. “The main thing is to make sure that we continue to degrade the resources that these groups use against our troops and our facilities,” Kirby said.
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It is not yet clear when this retaliation will take place. It remains to be determined, among other things, which group exactly is behind the attack on the American position on the border between Jordan and Syria and how exactly the drone attack occurred.
Sunday’s coup was essentially not much different from the dozens of hits suffered by American forces since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on October 7. Washington, which keeps the bulk of its troops in the region at bases in the Persian Gulf, has 3,000 troops stationed in Jordan, one of its staunchest allies in the region. Furthermore, as part of the fight against the Islamic State, it maintains around 900 in Syria – especially in the north, in the Kurdish areas – and 2,500 in Iraq, with whose government it negotiates the future of this force. Both sides had held a meeting in this regard on Saturday itself. A good portion of these troops are stationed in places like Tower 22, surveillance and logistics posts in remote locations that are highly visible from the air.
The coalition of militias known as the Islamic Resistance of Iraq has carried out nearly 140 drone and missile attacks on U.S. force positions. Sunday’s attack, which involved two other outposts in which drones were shot down without further incidents, was also claimed. But the impact against Tower 22 was the first to cause the death of people, according to initial versions because the soldiers mistook the unmanned device for an American one.
The White House, through Kirby, confirmed that Biden will receive the bodies of the three soldiers killed on Friday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. This is the position the president hoped not to be seen in when he officially declared the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq in 2021, two decades after George W. Bush’s war in that country began.
Instead, since the beginning of the conflict in Gaza, the United States has seen attacks against its armed forces multiply and has strengthened its military deployment in the region. In the eastern Mediterranean, the battle group led by the amphibious assault ship Batan and equipped with a group of 2,500 marines, it carries out a double mission, on the one hand to dissuade the pro-Iranian militia Hezbollah from attacking Israel and on the other to strengthen the protection of merchant ships against Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. In those waters, the aircraft carrier carries out a similar mission Dwight Eisenhower and its combat group, with 5,000 soldiers on board.
At the same time, American diplomats are trying to promote negotiations for a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, which, they trust, could be the best card to stabilize, at least relatively, the situation.
The pact negotiated in Paris, where the United States is represented by the director of the CIA, William Burns, would provide for the suspension of the war for two months in exchange for the release of over a hundred of the hostages still held. Hamas, with a more ambitious agreement than the one that included a week’s pause in bombing at the end of last November.
“The hope is that a longer period of calm and stability will create space for greater diplomacy and set in motion the conditions for longer understanding,” observes Brian Katulis, vice president of think tank Washington Middle East Institute.
Progress in these negotiations “would be a strategic triumph for the United States and its allies in the region, and a blow to Iran and its followers, who have made great progress as the conflict has dragged on. As we evaluate our response to Sunday’s deadly attack, the United States must keep its strategic plan and interests in mind and design its actions to achieve these highest-value objectives,” said Paul Salem, president of the think tank.
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