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The military base known as Tower 22 in north-eastern Jordan. (Planet Labs PBC/AP)
Middle East

US vows 'very consequential' response after military members killed in Jordan drone strike

Iran said it had nothing to do with the attack and denied US and British accusations that it supported militant groups responsible for the strike.


THE UNITED STATES has 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.

The deaths have raised fears of an escalating conflict, as fighting still rages in Gaza. The attack marks the first US military deaths in an attack in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Speaking to CNN’s Morning Joe, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the response from Washington would be “very consequential”.

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

While Washington is still gathering the facts, “we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” said Biden, 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.”

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron also joined Biden 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 Tehran “is not involved in the decisions of the resistance groups”.

According to the BBC, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed it was behind the attack.

The group 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 conflict and wants them out of Iraq – has claimed dozens of attacks on US and anti-jihadist coalition forces in Iraq.

‘Regional explosion’

A spokesperson for Iran-backed 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 jihadist group, CENTCOM said.

The escalating Middle East conflict poses a challenge to Biden in an election year, and Republican politicians were quick to take 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.

The latest round of the Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian militant group carried out an unprecedented attack on 7 October that resulted in about 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Israel retaliated with a relentless military offensive that has killed at least 26,637 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s 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 Huthi rebels, who have been attacking Red Sea shipping in support of Palestinians in Gaza for more than two months

© AFP 2024 With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

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