Biden says he's decided Jordan strike response, doesn't want wider war

AFP , Tuesday 30 Jan 2024

US President Joe Biden said Tuesday he had decided on a response to a drone strike that killed three American troops in Jordan but said he did not want a wider war in the Middle East.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House AP


Facing growing pressure in an election year, Biden said he held Iran responsible for supplying the weapons to the people who carried out the deadly attack on a military base.

The White House warned that "multiple actions" were likely in retaliation for the first fatal attack on US forces in the region since the war in Gaza broke out in October, but gave no further details.

Biden, 81, who was hitting the campaign trail in Florida, has previously blamed Iran-backed militias for the attack which has further raised fears of a regional conflict.

"Yes," Biden told reporters at the White House when asked if he had decided on his response, but he did not give details on what actions he would take.

"I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for," he added when asked about fears that taking on Iran could inflame a broader conflagration.

Iran has denied any links to the drone strike and said it was not seeking an expansion of the conflict, either.

'Multiple Actions' 

Republicans have urged the Democrat to punish Iran for the drone strike on a US military facility near the Jordanian-Syrian border Sunday, with some urging direct strikes on Iran itself.

But Biden's administration believes hitting Iranian territory could cause the region to erupt, with strikes on Iranian-backed militias and possibly on Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities in other countries more likely, US media reported.

"It's very possible that what you'll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

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

Asked whether Iran was to blame for the attack on Jordan, Biden replied: "I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they're supplying the weapons to the people who did it."

Biden added "We'll have that discussion" when asked if a direct link to Iran had been established.

The deaths of the service members came as campaigning for the US presidential election in November gets into full swing, adding to the political pressure on Biden.

The US president will attend the "dignified transfer" of the bodies of the three slain service members at an airbase on Friday, the White House said.

Kremlin urges calm 

Tensions have escalated sharply in the region following the Jordan attack, already unstable since Israel's Oct 7 devastating aggression on Gaza.

The Kremlin, a close ally of Tehran, on Tuesday called for a de-escalation in the Middle East.

"In our view, the overall level of tension is very alarming and, on the contrary, now is the time for steps to de-escalate tensions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

"This is the only thing that can help us prevent further spreading of the conflict, especially the Middle East conflict, and somehow achieve de-confliction and de-escalation."

Tehran has said it had nothing to do with the attack and denied US accusations it supported militant groups behind the strike near the borders with Iraq and Syria.

China also warned against a "cycle of retaliation" in the Middle East.

Beijing has close ties with both Russia and Iran, with all three seeking to challenge what they say is Washington's global hegemony.

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