US vows 'consequential' response to deadly drone strike in Jordan

AFP , Monday 29 Jan 2024

The White House on Monday vowed a "very consequential response" to a drone attack on a base in Jordan that killed three American troops, with President Joe Biden blaming Iran-backed militants.

John Kirby
File Photo: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a daily briefing at the White House in Washington. AP


The casualties, the first US military deaths in an attack in the region since Oct.7, raised fears of an escalating conflict, as fighting rages in Gaza.

Washington's response will be "very consequential," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN Monday.

"But we don't seek a war with Iran. We're not looking for a wider conflict in the Middle East," he added.

Iran said it had nothing to do with the attack and denied US accusations that it supported militant groups responsible for the Sunday strike on the remote frontier base in Jordan's northeast, near the borders with Iraq and Syria.

While Washington is still gathering the facts, "we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq," Biden said Sunday, pledging to hold "all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing."

Kirby would not speculate on the options being considered by the president, including whether targets inside Iran were on the table.

He said Washington wants to "make it clear" that the attack, part of a series of other increasingly dangerous assaults by Iran-backed militants in the region in recent weeks, was "unacceptable."

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron joined Biden Sunday in blaming "Iran-aligned" militants and called on Tehran to "de-escalate the region."

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani has rejected the accusations as "baseless," adding Sunday that Tehran "is not involved in the decisions of the resistance groups."

There has so far been no claim of responsibility for the strike. However, on Sunday the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have launched three drone attacks at bases in Syria, including near the Jordanian border.

The group, a loose alliance of Iran-linked armed groups that oppose US support for Israel in the Gaza war and wants them out of Iraq, has claimed dozens of attacks on US and anti-jihadist coalition forces in Iraq.

'Regional explosion' 

Saudi Arabia condemned the attack Monday "in the strongest terms," according to a foreign ministry statement. Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, and Iraq have also condemned the attack.

A spokesman for Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the Jordan attack was a message that the fighting in Gaza "risks a regional explosion."

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said late on Sunday the attack had hit the remote Tower 22 logistics support base and that 34 personnel were also wounded, eight of whom required evacuation.

There are around 350 US Army and Air Force personnel at the base who operate in support roles, including for the international coalition against the Islamic State group, CENTCOM said.

The escalating Middle East conflict challenges Biden in an election year, and Republican politicians were quick to aim at him over the weekend.

US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in more than 150 attacks since mid-October, according to the Pentagon, and Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries.

Since Oct.7, ​Israel has launched a relentless military offensive on Gaza that killed at least 26,637 people, 70% of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Anger over that campaign has grown across the region, with violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, as well as Yemen.

There have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon. US forces are directly involved in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

The United States and Britain have both carried out strikes targeting Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been attacking Israeli and Israel-bound ships in the Red Sea in support of Palestinians in Gaza for more than two months.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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